Illegality of roadblocks by local governments to collect levies and taxes
Local Governments in concept are designed to bring about the most development to the populace due primarily to the fact that they are closest to the people. However experience has shown that local governments have been mainly utilized as a conduit to siphon public funds by corrupt politicians. There are cases where state governors have been accused of usurping the authorities of Elected Local Government and treating the said local governments as departments in the offices of the Governors concerned. Most regrettably local governments in Nigeria are notorious not only for their inability to positively impact on the lives of the people but for their seeming readiness to infringe on the rights of Nigerians by the forceful and often illegal extraction of equally illegal taxes and levies.
FERQUENCY OF ROAD BLOCKS DESIGNED TO AID COLLECTION OF TAXES AND LEVIES
Anyone who has traveled Nigerian roads either between or within the states will be familiar with the sight of young men who set up barricades on the road with the aim of collecting one levy or the other. These men who are often armed with sticks, cudgels and wooden planks studded with nails and other sharp objects are always quick to inform whoever cares to listen that they have the backing of the Local Government in the area to embark on their activities. In some instances they even brandish staff Identity Cards of these Local Governments. They normally demand receipts for one levy or the other. Persons who resist often have their vehicles towed or forced to pay one outrageous fine after several hours of delay.
ILLEGALITY OF ROAD BLOCKS
What is however unknown to many is that no authority, be it the Federal Government, State Government or Local Government is authorized to set up road blocks in any part of the Federation of Nigeria for the purpose of collecting any tax or levy. Section 2(2) of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act Cap 12 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 provides as follows:
“2(2) No person, including a tax authority, shall mount a road block in any part of the federation for the purpose of collecting any tax or levy.
Section 3 of the same Act provides as follows Offences
A person who –
(a) collects or levies any tax or levy; or
(b) mounts a road block or causes a road block to be mounted for the purpose of collecting any tax or levy in contravention of section 2 of this Act, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N50,000 or imprisonment for three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
From the provisions reproduced above, most local governments in Nigeria have been conducting themselves in flagrant disregard to the Law. They have simply put, been engaging in criminal activities. But what is more worrisome is that the Personnel of the local governments concerned are in some cases aided and protected in their nefarious activities by security agencies including the Police. So to who are knowledgeable members of the public expected to report infractions of the provisions of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act? Surely not the Police?
However, the matter does not end at the illegality of the road blocks. Experience has shown that many local government set up road block to collect taxes and levies which are clearly outside their statutory competence. In this regard, it is important to once again refer to the First Schedule of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act. The said Schedule lists the matters over which the three tiers of Government may collect Taxes and Levies. It provides as follows:
Taxes to be collected by the Federal Government
1. Companies income tax
2. Withholding tax on companies, residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and non-resident individuals.
3. Petroleum profit tax
4. Value Added Tax
5. Education tax
6. Capital gain tax on residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, bodies corporate and non-resident individuals.
7. Stamp duties on bodies corporate and residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
8. Personal income tax in respect of –
(a) members of the armed forces of the federation
(b) members of the Nigeria Police Force
(c) Residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
(d) Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs an non-resident individuals.
Taxes and levies to be collected by the State Government
1. Personal income tax in respect of-
Direct taxation (self-assessment).
2. Withholding tax (individuals only)
3. Capital gain tax (individuals only)
4. Stamp duties on instruments executed by individuals
5. Pools betting and lotteries, garbing and casino taxes
6. Road taxes
7. Business premises registration fee in respect of –
(a) urban areas as defined by each state, maximum of –
(i) N10,000 for registration; and
(ii) N5,000 per annum for renewal of registration; and
(b) Rural areas-
(i) N2,000 for registration; and
(ii) N1,000 per annum for renewal of registration
8. Development levy (Individuals only) not more than N100 per annum on all taxable individuals.
9. Naming of street registration fees in the State Capital
10. Right of Occupancy fees on lands owned by the State Government in urban areas of the state.
11. Market taxes and levies where State finance is involved.
Taxes and levies to be collected by the local government
1. Shops and, kiosks rates
2. Tenement rates
3. On and off liquor licence fees.
4. Slaughter slab fees
5. Marriage, birth and death registration fee
6. Naming of street registration fee, excluding any street in the State Capital
7. Right of Occupancy fees on lands in rural arrears, excluding those collectable by the Federal and State governments.
8. Market taxes and levies excluding any market where State finance is involved.
9. Motor park levies.
10.Domestic animal licence fees
11. Bicycle, truck, canoe, wheelbarrow and cart fees, other than a mechanically propelled truck
12. Cattle tax payable cattle farmers only
13. Merriment and road closure levy.
14. Radio and television licence fees (other than radio and television transmitter).
15. Vehicle radio licence fees (to be imposed by the local government of the State in which the car is registered.
16. Wrong parking charges.
17. Public convenience, sewage and refuse disposal fees.
18. Customary burial ground permit fees.
19. Religious places established permit fees.
20. Signboard and advertisement permit fees.
Despite the clear provisions of the above most Local Governments demand levies and taxes which by Law they are not permitted to collect. They have devised many taxes and levies not contemplated by law. Whilst it is understandable that much effort is required to shore up the revenue base of Local Governments so as to fulfill their obligations to the people, it is important that such efforts do not run foul of the law.
The ability and freedom to move about is essential to human development. Commerce as we know it and the economic prosperity it has brought to many nations would have been impossible if the movement of people were unduly restricted. Such is the importance of this right that it is guaranteed to every individual by the provisions of Section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended). Similar guarantees exist in the Constitution of most countries including that of the United States of America. Infraction of this right is permissible only within limited circumstances which are not wide enough to include the illegal conduct of most Local Government authorities in setting up illegal road blocks.
It is therefore imperative for the authorities concerned to stop these activities. The Inspector General of Police in particular should ensure that Policemen are not assigned to offer protection to these illegal operations. Members of the public whose rights are infringed as a result of the setting up of these road blocks should approach the courts for the enforcement of their rights. They should also challenge the legality of levies and taxes imposed upon them where such contravene the provisions of Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act. It is only by so doing that Nigeria may be seen as ready to remove the tag of a “lawless nation” with which it is often described by the Press of the Western Nations.
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