The news of the introduction of the unified tax regime in the commercial transportation sector by the Rivers State government over a week ago did cause some agitations, especially by some members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, either based on ignorance or an attempt to see government pronouncement as an offensive launched against the union, aimed at usurping their powers.
But thankfully, events of the past few days have since dissolved doubts and insinuations about the new regime of tax harmonization which main purpose is to abolish multiple taxation and ensure dues from the daily ticketing for commercial vehicle operators go directly into the state government purse thereby improving the State Internally Generated Revenues, IGR.
While it is worth recalling that the immediate reactions in some quarters by a section of the commercial drivers was based on lack of understanding of the initiative, it is also worth commending the leadership of the NURTW, Rivers State chapter for appreciating the merits in the introduction of a new tax system, even as they have openly declared support for the state government to ensure the new arrangement is mutually beneficial to both parties.
In putting the records straight, the Chairman, Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue Service, RIRS, ThankGod Adoage Norteh, had said that commercial drivers would, with effect from last Monday, pay taxes directly to the Rivers State account and not to their respective unions. And quoting Boma Tom George, Zonal Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers,(NURTW) who noted that the tax harmonization would not conflict with the normal daily union dues paid by members but rather it would help put a stop to perennial multiple taxation that members of the union were confronted with on daily basis. Tom George who fielded questions from journalists said, “The chief tax officer of the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service, RIRS told us that the harmonization system has to do with the local government tickets and road tax.
“He did not mention any way that it will affect that of the National Union of Road Transport Workers. We are union and every member of the union has to pay his dues.”
From the above argument, it can be deduced that what should go into the coffers of the state government should be treated as such and what is meant for the NURTW should be accorded the union so that no party is seen to be milking the other.
It is noteworthy that new tax initiative by the RIRS did not just suffice , in spite of the initial outcry in some quarters, it was according to the RIRS, a product of due consultation with the stakeholders.
We are of the view that , rather than generate any misgivings, the tax harmonization should be viewed against its merits which include the fact that the policy is in favour of the transport union as multiple taxes can only continue to be burden to commercial drivers in the state. Both the state government and the transport union members stand to benefit immensely if they consider some of the advantages here:
- Elimination of multiple taxation with its attendant negative consequences. For instance, it is a known fact that before the introduction of the unified tax regime, commercial vehicles, including buses and taxis in the state had difficulties plying from one local government to the other because of the need to pay for different tickets for different local government as to that enable them to operate successfully.
- The new tax regime will help check touting at motor parks and ticket counterfeiting
- It will help to boost the state internally generated revenue, IGR
- It will help eliminate activities of middlemen while ensuring that proceeds from such go directly in to the coffers of the state government, among other merits
- Commercial vehicle operators will heave a sigh of relief from harassment from local government revenue agents as they would pay once per day and this will enable them ply roads across the 23 local government of the state.
- The new regime is an opportunity for the members of the NURTW to put their house in order and take a que from available innovations to improve the administration of the union.
- Government on its part will be able to initiate more projects that will have direct impact on the welfare of the people
On why government should extend its tentacles to the commercial transport division, it is on record that most of the taxi parks in the state are owned by the state government and the NURTW members have continued to operate on them with little or no returns.
But the only responsibility of the government remains to ensure provision of amenities for the people and the enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
And, of course , the present day economic realities is another reason why governments across the state of the federation now look inwards on how to improve their IGR in order to continue to deliver democratic goods to the people.
But we believe that under the circumstance, the people should demand accountability from the government after they have done their own part as responsible citizens.
We urge the transport union members who may be in doubt as to the moves by government to seek more clarifications and better ways of addressing issues while government should continue to make its policy and programmes clearer to the people who may be affected by their actions in order to foster better understanding.