by crossriverwatch admin
Shops and business premises have remained shut in Ogoja the northern Senatorial District of Cross River State in the past four days following disagreement between the Chairman of Ogoja Local Government Council, Ms Rita Ayim and the traders over the taxes demanded by the council from the traders.
The traders are rejecting the sums handed to them by the council authorities as the charges for the renewal of their annual business premises registration and other charges which they claim is outrageous while the council is insisting that no reductions will be made from the sums demanded from the traders.
The impasse has resulted in many residents of Igoli, the major town in Ogoja taking long taxi rides to Okuku and other neighboring towns to buy provisions and basic food items to meet their needs.
Mr Moses Udam, the Chairman of the Ogoja Amalgamated Traders Association told CrossRiverWatch that the traders are not refusing to pay the taxes as demanded by the council but that, “the tax regime should be implemented with a human face after all we have been paying this business registration fees and other charges long before Ms Ayim entered primary school and we never had issues with the council authorities but barely six months in office, she is sealing our shops with a ribbon for no just cause”
Citing instances of the hike in the taxes, Mr Udam said in 2013 shops that were charged 5000 naira by the previous administration are now being asked to pay the sum of 20,000 while shops that paid 10,000 naira are being levied between 50, 000 to 60,000 which is way out of what his members can afford. “Last year, Edor Pharmacy and Hilary Chemist paid the sum of 9,000 naira each but this year she is asking them to pay the sum of 50,000 naira what percentage increases are we talking about here?”
Mr Udam said the taxes levied on his members did not take into cognizance the fact that the traders have to pay rents for their shops, salaries, and meet other business needs and if the taxes are not reduced some of the shops may shut down permanently as the traders would run out of funds to buy goods to stuck their shops.
However, Ms Ayim said the shops were duly assessed before they were levied and no reductions will be made as each shop was charged based on ability to pay. “The shops were sent tax notices after an assessment by tax experts and so every shop has to pay because no reductions will be made in the sums demanded from each shop”. Ms Ayim stressed.
She said in the past, tax agents from the council connived with the traders to under pay their taxes and this has stagnated development in the council area. “The taxes are categorized under very large, large, medium, small and very small and each shop was charged based on assessment and appropriate categorization”.
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