Against the negative reactions it has received from an apprehensive social media, there is no gainsaying the fact that with the Real Property Charge Bill 2016 having gone through its second reading on the floor of the State House of Assembly, and with an equally relevant Maritime Bill, the implementation of these laws on its final passage and assent by the executive, will invariably form a major plank of boosting accruable revenue to Akwa Ibom State from non-oil sources.
And what is more? At the rate the bills are receiving popular endorsements on the floor of the hallowed chambers aside a very negligible but sensational dissent, kudos must however, be given to the legislative arm of government for finding it quite imperative to work in harmony, show passion and support the executive arm in creating inclusive growth to the economy through the provision of robust and enabling laws as would increasingly aid in leveraging an economy presently caught in deep and debilitating recession.
As the legislature is primarily responsible for the enactment of laws that would provide the requisite and enabling environment expected to attract investments, provide jobs, create wealth, build needed human capacity and yield the required revenue necessary to implement and drive various government programmes and policies for the people, the abundance of available revenue no doubt is necessary for the continuous development of perquisite infrastructure amid other basic social amenities as can ably pedal the state economy out of the present woods.
The concerted efforts of the Assembly members must therefore be praised as being meaningful even as it is steered to where further growth can essentially be achieved for the speedy improvement of the state economy.
In the envisaged connection, certain critical sectors will in the process become actively revamped, development will assume more sustainable levels and in terms of capacity delivery, government will achieve more, while also gaining meaningful credit.
Furthermore, the full implementation of the extant revenue laws as fully intended by the twin bills will empower tax authorities, agents and indeed the IGR Consultant to track run-away revenues, plug leakages, cordon tax evaders and develop fresh frameworks that will capture more tax payers, expand the state tax net, exploit and explore new revenue streams as well as identify tax compliant concerns, especially among high net worth individuals and corporate institutions operating in the real property and maritime industry of the state. Indeed, this will bring about fresh opportunities of shoring up more revenue for the state government.
Before the slump in global economy in November 2014, Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State was particularly known to rely heavily and absolutely on oil as its sole revenue earner. It provides the more reason why at the turn of things, 2016 was particularly a challenging year for the entire national economy.
But in retrospect, fantastic proofs however, abound that the current IGR Consultant to the government, having engaged critical stakeholders in the sector including ministries, departments and agencies [MDA’s] of government and relevant tax authorities had perhaps performed quite creditably by remarkably turning around the IGR fortunes of the state by an equally a far but very impressive margin.
Much as the state’s statistical growth points to this clear evidence, more, it can be assured, would be earned with the timely introduction of Real Property Charge Bill into the state tax system and policy.
Tax, it cannot be argued, is a patriotic duty and obligatory contribution that a citizen should make to the building and development of the state.
But from the furor generated from the recent legislative effort at mainstreaming revenue receipts from the property sector much has been misrepresented by those posturing to champion the cause of the lay masses.
Yet, the current argument comes no where as presenting the truth, but is in its material element, simply thrown up to ruffle the situation and charm the people’s sensibilities, especially their emotions. This is the bone of its propagandistic appeal: reaching out to touch the base sentiments of the public.
And to put some of the issues in its true perspective, it is clear that the poor do not belong to the propertied class as has been erroneously projected by the anti-real property charge bill advocates. Amidst its trending protestations, the issue is not plainly or exactly lopsided against the poor masses as its vehement advocates would passionately want us believe.
Against the elements of the raving arguments, there is no isolated plan or intent whatsoever, by the unfairly “demonized” bill to over tax the poor; or much less, increase their load of economic misery. And why?
The Bill cannot be targeted at the poor as the poor, through millennia of human history are never categorized into the propertied class.
From the middle ages through renaissance to the industrial revolution of the 19th century, land in the then civilized world-spanning Greece, Italy, France, Britain, Ottoman Empire, Prussia, Russia, Spain and Portugal were owned and held in trust by the nobles and gentry, who regularly, leased out their estates for cultivation by the poor. The proceeds of produce were then taxed in terms of duties, customs and rates and the money went to pay for various public services.
In the same vein today, the poor for instance, cannot own large swathes of real estate. They can not build private Jetties, own trawlers, tank farms, private schools, air strips, petrol stations, luxury hotels or production industries. These are well beyond the capacity of the lumpen poor.
More importantly, all private and exotic property strewn across various upscale estates in the state are never and will never be credited to the ownership of any poor. So who then is pandering to emotions with the illusive idea that one is supposedly speaking for or acting in strict sympathy with the “propertied poor” in our midst?
In as much as the real property charge bill is not targeted at the poor or intended to afflict the rural resident with an added tax burden, it would have then served the best interest of the public and indeed the emotionist rallied against the said bill, to have brought out their salient arguments on the floor of the Assembly- which, in the first place, remains the best setting for it – and test the popularity or otherwise of the seemingly controversial bill.
Nigerians and indeed Akwa Ibomites know better. Those actions were never intended as a means of redemption but meant to escalate something else having initially not been designed in the sole interest of our sprawling poor.
For once, the vehemence against the bill contradicts every expected role of the citizen in state building; even as it is expected of legislators to always act in overriding public interest. But in this case, it is also unexpected that a legislator armed with the bare facts of an otherwise harmless bill would turn and act against the same public interest; by pandering to negative interpretations and misrepresentation of the clear intent of a growth incline bill.
Expectedly, it is the Assembly that can always provide a strong and a genuine voice to issues that stands out to affect the interest of the people. To this moment, and to clearly establish the position of the honourable members of the hallowed Assembly, nothing so far indicates the contrary, which in the stride would have proven that the bill as set is bound to hold their very constituents to an undue economic burden.
In the final analysis, the furor then may have been sensationally intended.
But beyond it all, it may simply had been advanced to present a populist grandstanding wholly designed in a disguised but unmistaken flow of enlightened self interest.
With the level of misguidance, the social and mainstream media protestations and its varied reactions may have so far achieved, the dissent on the bill may primarily have been conscripted as a guided conspiracy theory widely, advanced to shore up some levels of political capital for its main advocates.
And considered on other hand, were the real property charge bill to be what it has been misprojected to be, it is constitutionally the role of the Assembly in its clear majority to have voted otherwise. At that instance, the unduly demonized bill would have been proven either pro-or anti-masses, pro-development or anti-growth and above all, anti-poor or pro-rich.
In the light of the above, to practically defame the purpose of the said bill as focused to the poor is a great disservice to the state and public; and there is no need for a continuous exchange of social or mainstream media brickbats over the bill.
The real intent of the bill, as clearly explained by its sponsor is to meet the effective regulation of the state revenue sector for greater public delivery.
And as a critical key expected to advance economic and inclusive growth in the state, the bill must be seen as being widely supported and not adopted as a channel to unleash a perceived anti-establishment rage, sentimentally masked as cause-advocacy campaign.