The Ebonyi State Government has donated N150 million to the Market Women Association in the State to uplift the status of their members.
Governor David Umahi, who announced the donation on Monday during a Town Hall meeting with stakeholders on Internally Generated Revenue in the State, also abolished all forms of daily tolls charged on hawkers and petty traders who have no shops in markets.
The Governor further suspended Income Taxes payable by traders across the markets in the State as well as all forms of revenue charged by the local governments and development centres.
Umahi lamented that the much orchestrated taxes, levies and rates presumed to be charged by the State Government were not reflecting in the State’s Internally Generated Revenue status and attributed their proliferation and inconsistencies to evil activities of fraudsters in the guise of government revenue collectors.
He emphasized that the measures have become necessary in order to ameliorate the unwarranted pressure, hardship and challenges imposed on the people by these illegal revenue collectors, adding: “The government will not allow the oppression of anybody for we are not unaware of the challenges our people are going through.
“All those small, small women, we are going to assist you today.
“The women at the capital city, we are going to be donating the sum of N20 million to them.
“And to the 13 local governments market women, we will donate N10 million to each of the local governments.
“Now what I want you to do is that if there is any way we have collected revenue from these people, you will use that to assist them
“These people that are selling vegetables, you can assist them with N5,000, N10,000, etc, but make sure that it goes to all these women that are not doing much.
“It will assist.
“So, a total of N150 million will be given to the market women.
“From today all revenue collection in Local Government, Development Centre is hereby suspended.”
The Governor noted that a meeting will be called within the week involving all landlords, marketers, traders, local government Chairmen and Coordinators of Development Centres, Management Committee members, Traditional Rulers and other stakeholders, whereby agreement would be reached on harmonized, reasonable taxes and rates to be paid by the people of the State.
While he asked landlords to ignore Demand Notices for payment of 2016 and 2017 arrears of property and tenement rates for now, Umahi urged them to intensify efforts to settle the rates for 2018, adding that no house owner was exempted from property rate, irrespective of social or political status.
He however warned citizens of the State not to pay cash to any revenue agent, stressing that any revenue contractor found violating the directives of government would bag five years imprisonment.
He added: “What we want to do is to use Thursday and Friday to meet with all the Chairmen and Coordinators of Local Governments and Development Centres and all the market men and women.
“Let us see what is being collected; let us agree on how it is collected.
“Our people should not be harassed.
“Our people are being harassed by these revenue collectors and the law prescribes prison term for such harassment….
“All collection should be based on what government’s law of the State has approved
“It is only the revenue and the method of collection agreed that will be allowed in the development centres and local government areas.
“Anybody who acts otherwise is heading to the prison….
“We are not interested in what you are collecting but our concern is that whatever happens at these various levels, the Governor takes the blame and I will not fold my hands and allow that.
“This means that the activities of all revenue contractors are also hereby suspended.”
In a synopsis delivered earlier, the Deputy Governor, Kelechi Igwe, noted that the meeting was called to resolve few complaints by the people as regards the different revenues charged in the State, which, according to him, has been orchestrated negatively by some people as a political tool against the Government.
Igwe decried that the total market revenue accruable to the State from the 13 Local Government Areas in the State was only about N10 million, adding that Ebonyi State was the only State with less than N400 million internally generated revenue per month.
He attributed the misconceptions on Government approved revenue to the activities of fraudsters and urged the people to sustain the payment of official revenue rates to the State for continued quality infrastructure and other democracy dividends.
He further noted that some impostors who were defrauding citizens with fake revenue receipts have been arrested while the Government would begin to adopt other measures such as provision of uniforms and other forms of identification for genuine revenue agents.
Representatives of Market Women Association; Landlords Association, led by Josephat Okpala, appreciated the Governor’s gesture, describing it as a mark of good leadership and empathy.
They identified the lack of proper record by the revenue agents and contractors as one of their challenges, which has made the agents demand from them areas of years that had already been paid by them.
Umahi at the event gave immediate appointment to two women who spoke for the Market Women Association as Technical Assistants to the Governor for their erudition and carriage