The recent directive from the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory to Chairmen of the six area councils of the Territory, warning them to henceforth stop the collection of tenement rates from property owners in their respective domains have sparked of mixed reactions among stakeholders.
While some described the minister’s action as a welcome development that would check menace of double taxation, others were concerned that it may impugn negatively on the ingenuity of those steering affairs at the grass root level of governance to perform.
Recall that arising from its weekly Executive Committee (EXCO) meeting, last month, the Minister, read a riot act to the authorities of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) to immediately stop illegal collection of tenement rates or any other such taxes from the residents.
The minister, who spoke through the Coordinator of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Reuben Okoya, stressed that the directive also extends to other chairmen of other area councils in the FCT.
He revealed that the administration received a lot of complaints about certain people claiming to be AMAC representatives going around collecting tenement rates ranging from N40, 000 to N100, 000 per house in the city.
Mohammed, who frowned at the development, directed that the FCT permanent secretary should write to the chairman of AMAC, to ensure that all illegal the rates-be it tenement, shop or whatever should not be collected by anybody on behalf of the council.
This move, the minister said was to ensure that Abuja residents not double taxed, in the process, stressing that area councils have no reason to collect such rates, as they run the markets, parking facilities and the motor parks in the domains, where they generate revenue.
However, a business owner, in Utako District, Uzoma Joel, who claimed ignorance of the said directive, but said it was a good development as if followed up, would check the exploitation of private citizens doing business in the city.
He complained that they have suffered a lot from collection of such illegal tax charges by officials claiming to be representatives of AMAC.
“The problem is not even with them coming to make collections, but the frequency and fashion at which these people harass us, in the name of working for the government.
“Because, different collectors come for the same rate collection, and even on presentation of evidence of payment for a given period, they would still insist on collecting their own.
“So, if this directive to the authorities at the council would make them sit up and do things right, then it is a good step taken by the minister,” he stressed.
Another businessman, in Wuse, Adamu Sule, decried that the issue of multiple taxation and charges on businesses in Abuja has remained a source of nightmare to them.
He said, in some cases there are touts masquerading as area council staff, collecting rates on behalf of the government.
“The issue, why would the government keep using persons of questionable characters to work for it, when there are lot of good people looking for a job to do?
“This has made difficult for us to differentiate when they are coming to collect the rates on their own and when it’s for the government. I think the system must be changed, to fall in line with modern trend,” he said.
Similarly, a resident, in Gwarinpa, Uche Ike, who said the intervention, was overdue, however noted that the directive was too clear on what constitute illegal or legal charges or rates.
However, one Akinwale Joseph, argued that the FCTA cannot claim ignorance of the existence of some illegal agents, collecting such illegal rates from the residents of the Territory.
To this end, he described the directive as mere formality and empty threat to the authorities of councils, aimed at widow-dressing peoples’ concerns.
In the same vein, another stakeholder, John Promise, noted that the FCT administration can’t sit and lay accusations against the chairmen of the councils.
“Every time the FCTA gives one directive or the other to the authorities at the grass root level, as if they were together not in the same corrupt system.
“So, for me, there is no need apportioning blame to any arm of the government, as they are all part of the rotten system; the minister should let them be free to source for funds to deliver for the people,” he stressed.
In issuing the directive, the minister warned that the Administration we would no longer condone such illegal collections, and anybody caught collecting such rates, would be dealt with, and the full wrath of the law will be brought on their heads.
“In some cases you find touts going around collecting rates illegally, but it beholds on the FCT Administration to work in collaboration with security agencies to stop such and arrest people that are involved into such activities.
“It was brought to the notice of FCT, and after discussing it extensively, the minister then directed that permanent secretary
should write to the chairman of AMAC, to ensure that no illegal rates should be collected by anybody on behalf of the council.
“Tenement rates have their own ways of being collected by the FCT administration, so the minister was very unhappy, and so were the entire executive committee.
“And what the committee did was to write to AMAC chair, to say any rate you are collecting that is not backed by law, stop it; but any rates that you are collecting legally, you should continue.
“The minister said that, from now on, he is going to take up himself to make sure rates that paid in the FCT are legal rates, not illegal rates; so, we encourage citizens to ensure that they pay their rates to the right people, and as at when due,” Okoya quoted the minister.