An Open Letter To His Excellency Engr. David Nweze Umahi, Fnse, Fnate

Urgent Need To Jettison The Collection Of Tenement Rates/Ground Rents
From Landlords, Excessive/Forceful Drive For Quarry Haulage Levies
And Waiving Of Personal Income Taxes As A Way Of Cushioning The
Devastating Effects Of The Covid-19 Pandemic On Ebonyi’s Struggling Economy
As always, I bring you words and greetings as I commend the efforts of your government in tackling one of the most challenging health situations ever faced by humanity- the battle to contain and manage the spread of the dreaded global Corona Virus Pandemic, particularly in our dear Salt of the Nation!
It is regrettable though that despite the efforts of you and your officials especially to police our borders, the State presently has eight active cases which it is currently battling with. It is my heartfelt prayers that the situation for especially our dear State, and Nigeria does not get worse than it is. Collectively, we shall continue to work hard to ensure that the active cases are managed successfully to the full recovery of the patients.
However, the main subject matter of this letter is to bring to your kind attention, the activities and actions of some of your appointees who have continued to carry on, ostensibly on your specific instructions as though they lack the basic understanding of the long term negative impacts of this COVID-19 pandemic on the business and economic climate of our dear State, Ebonyi.
Specifically, Your Excellency, only a few days after you directed a subtle relaxation of the lockdown in the State and struggling businesses and individuals battling to find their footings amidst the harsh global economic realities occasioned by the Corona Virus, your officials working in the Tenement Rate/Ground Rent EXCO Sub-Committee and also the Ebonyi State Internal Revenue Board, (EBSIRB) have intensified efforts to paste demand notices for immediate payment of tenement and ground rents and taxes for all landlords and property owners, some dating back to 2014 and others even to the last decade.
The Tenement Rates and Ground Rents notice, pasted in virtually all private and commercial buildings at the peak of the lockdown obviously in violation of the social distancing rules bears the caption; Re: Regularization/updating of your Land Title Documents (C-of-O) and payment of Ground Rent and said to be in pursuit of the Land Use Act of 1978 and relevant State Laws.
The said notice which clearly noted: This serves as a Final Reminder and defaulters will be promptly sued to Court and land/properties revoked or sealed accordingly. Please do not delay, repulsively they gave property and landowners only Seven (7) days of receiving the said notice to comply. On the other hand, the Income Tax Assessment notices bearing outrageous charges running into millions of naira originating from the State’s Revenue Board purports to be pursuant to Section 56 of the Personal Income Tax Act, CAP P.B Law of the Federation of Nigeria. The later also gave barely a One-month grace to all property owners living or dead, currently resident in same or not to pay up the fraudulently accessed income taxes or give objection in writing to the officer in charge at a given office address.
Also, in a related development, the State’s Acting Commissioner for Solid Minerals Development have continued to senselessly harangue quarry owners through Public Service Announcements in the State-owned broadcast outfit, EBBC to pay up their haulage levies or have their premises sealed. This is even though quarry mining is one of the major sources of Internally Generated Revenue for our poor State. It is instructive to place on records that your government more than previous regimes have benefitted from the direct and prompt payment of these haulage and other levies direct into the State government’s accounts without anything dropping as had been and should remain the case, into the purse of the various Local Government councils wherein these mines are exploited.
For these group of persons which saner minds may best consider as ‘chaos agents’, these demands are so urgent and pressing that even the Tenement Rate/Ground Rents EXCO Committee disrespectfully deployed all the available media of communication, including the use of the local ‘Iba Bye-Bye’ street-to-street early morning public address system to subtly threaten landlords and property owners in the State to either pay up or have their property sealed and or their lands revoked. This, frankly, speaking is totally CONDEMNABLE and UNACCEPTABLE especially coming currently!
Even though it may be incontrovertible that based on your modus operandi, the contract to collect these rates/rents must have been given out before this time, it is yet wise and incumbent upon you as the leader of the State at this point in humanity’s history to not only call your foot-soldiers to order but OUTRIGHTLY WAIVE THESE PAYMENTS at least for the time being. It is my deep-most concern that Your Excellency as a leader should have been very worried about how the State plummeted from its much understandable position as the 19th poorest among the 36 States of the federation in 2004 to a worrisome and embarrassing 3rd position and the only State in Southern Nigeria for that matter to hit such negative record.
The current and even past statistics made available by the National Bureau of Statistics, (NBS) which I have personally taken time to hemselves, their families and loved ones at this time is CLEARLY RESPONSIBLE for our economic woes and exacerbating poverty index ratings. As you are aware, leaders of nations and policy-makers the world over are already fashioning out fiscal and monetary policy measures, including tax holidays to cushion the jarring effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic and help their nations, States and the masses get out of the woods.
study and understand clearly indicates that our hardened economic policies and decisions (such as these excessive and threatening drives for rates, taxes and levies), particularly from businesses and individuals struggling to barely feed themselves, their families and loved ones at this time is CLEARLY RESPONSIBLE for our economic woes and exacerbating poverty index ratings. As you are aware, leaders of nations and policy-makers the world over are already fashioning out fiscal and monetary policy measures, including tax holidays to cushion the jarring effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic and help their nations, States and the masses get out of the woods.
In Nigeria for instance, you are aware that the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) in addition to its other fiscal stimulus packages to households and small and medium enterprises worse hit by the pandemic has revised downwards the interest rates on all its interventions from 9 to 5 percent per annum, effective since March 1st this year. It also extended moratorium for its intervention facilities and had also recently further intervened to ensure that Access Bank did not proceed further with its planned mass sack of its staff in this season. Similarly, the Bank of Industry has lowered its interest rates from 10 to 8 percent in order to stimulate economic recovery and growth.
All these notwithstanding, policy makers are still beckoning on the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) as well as State Inland Revenue Services to waive payments on personal and corporate income tax at least for the second quarter of 2020, considering that the shock has affected the income and profits of households and businesses. Leaders, the world over are showing enormous compassion on their subjects whose plans and proposals for the year have already been terribly and acutely cut short by the unanticipated outbreak of this global pandemic.
It would therefore be insensitive, inhuman and counter-productive to the efforts already made by government at all levels to cushion the effects of this dreaded virus if your government, its officials or representatives continue to harass, intimidate or threaten individuals and business owners with taxes, rates and or rents at this time in humanity’s history.
Like I had earlier reiterated in my recent letter, Your Excellency and the people working under your government MUST be made to understand that Ebonyians are not all conquered people. We are rather reasonable, empathic, friendly and understandable like the rest of humanity especially and beyond a time such as we have found the world have found itself.
Please do, as always accept the kind assurances of my best regards!
Thank you.

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