Business owners in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital have revealed that their businesses are under serious threat owing to extortion and arbitrary taxes demanded by officials of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
Some Abuja business owners made their concerns known during a radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.
Speaking during the program, a correspondent with the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Amos Abba revealed that booming extortion schemes perpetrated by AMAC officials through taxes and levies in Abuja have become alarming and may lead to shut down of businesses.
Abba, who carried out the investigation lamented that the extortion of business owners in the city has become a flourishing business because the AMAC officials see it as an opportunity to make money, stressing that the unwholesome act is further emboldened by the silence of citizens affected over the years.
His word: “My findings revealed that some of these charges and taxes that are being paid don’t go into the coffers of the government, they go into the coffer of the officials.
“I reached out to some of the officials who are known to be notorious in extorting the public and I found out that business owners were charged 10 to 15 arbitrary taxes differently and these officials are in the business of making their own end meet through these taxes.
“Businesses are shutting down due to the extortion and the multiple taxes, the economy is likely to be stagnated, people are going out of their jobs and it is negatively impacting on businesses in Abuja,” Abba stated.
He revealed that AMAC’s Public Relations Officer, Dayo Lawal denied knowledge of corruption amongst its staff when contacted, but AMAC was yet to take action against officials whose faces were exposed after the investigation was published.
An Abuja-based real estate manager (name withheld), who has been a victim of extortion and arbitrary taxes by AMAC officials corroborated that business owners are subjected to pay about 10 different taxes and levies yearly without any prior information.
Sharing his unpleasant experience, He said: “The taxes are too many, you have tax on environmental sanitation, taxes on kiosk and shops, premise operation, tenement rate and many more. And most recently they brought taxes for television and radio.”
He noted that hopes of accountability in remitting of the taxes and levies are further dampened because the tax demanded by AMAC can be negotiated and paid into the bank account given by the agents who collect the taxes on AMAC’s behalf.
“AMAC knows no one can pay the exact amount on the demand notice, because it is outrageous. I never paid any of those levies and taxes directly into AMAC’s account but to partners, AMAC hired to collect these taxes,” he stressed.
Some Abuja residents and business owners who called into the program shared their frustrations and experiences with illegal taxes they pay to AMAC in the course of running their business daily.
A caller who identified himself as Matthew said: “It is important for AMAC to know that citizens are actually struggling to set up businesses, people are actually struggling to become employers of labour and their taxes are becoming too many.”
Shuaibu Haruna said: “The way AMAC harass people is alarming one cannot even pack and receive call again on the express road. I just stopped to buy a newspaper and they collected three thousand Naira from me. I paid cash when they took me to their office and I was not given a receipt for the money I paid to them.”
Mrs. Adegbite said: “They (AMAC) are extorting us, they are not supposed to collect all these monies, the other time they locked my shop because of twenty thousand Naira and I already paid ten thousand which is for a year, by June they came and they locked up my shop, I had to go to AMAC before they were then directed to reopen my shop; last week again they brought this radio and television bill for one hundred thousand Naira for a medium shop and I asked them if you were to be in my shoes would you pay? And he said no, till now they are still bordering me, I told them I don’t have a television, I only have a CCTV and they said it’s a television too.”
Paul said: “Please government should look into all this, where is this money even going into, and yet with everything there is no single development all the roads are bad, we can’t see the evidence on anything. Why do we pay so much and why are we like this in this country,” He questioned?
The Chairman of AMAC has been invited by PRIMORG to appear on next week’s episode of the program to respond to the allegations.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The project is supported by the MacArthur Foundation