Kano: The tax and the tormenting tight spot of the trike users-Bala Ibrahim

The situation in Kano as tricycle riders' strike continues, on Wednesday

Kano, Nigeria’s oldest commercial centre and home to nearly five million people is heading for a total commercial mobility paralysis, as the strike of the tricycle operators, otherwise called “Adaidaita-Sahu” enters its third day today.

The trike operators began a seven-day warning strike on Monday, against the annual registration number imposed on them by the state government and the unending increment on taxes, without what they called, ‘any corresponding visible value added’.

Undoubtedly the trike strike had brought untold hardship to everyone in and around the city, because many passengers, particularly traders that are mostly dependent on the tricycles, are subjected to the terrible torture of long trekking on foot with their wares.

Already Kano had for long been without taxi operators. Even the buses have since been missing. The only commercial vehicles now in Kano are the bolt mobility transport that offer vehicle for hire, and they too come with their own challenge of the use of apps, that are expected to be downloaded by a user on his or her mobile device.

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For a city that is relatively backward in western education, even if advanced in Islamic education, relying on the use of devises and information technology to mount on a ride for commercial movement from point A to B, can be as baffling as it is puzzling.

But what precisely is the cause of the problem?

The problem on the surface, as put forward by the Managing Director of the Kano State Traffic Agency, Baffa Babba-Dan’agundi is that, the operators of the tricycles embarked on the strike because of the introduction of the operational permit by the government.

Baffa said even though the government had reduced the cost from N100,000 to N8,000, to enable them pay, some are still hesitant, and the law says they must pay.

“They don’t want to respect the law, they think the security they are getting is for nothing. I don’t have any authority to say they must resume work. However, they do not have any authority to tell me not to ask for their particulars and not to arrest them and take appropriate action against them,”-Baffa.

So the problem on the surface is that of failure to give revenue to the government, and in law, tax evasion is an illegal activity in which a person or entity deliberately avoids paying a true tax liability. Those caught evading taxes are generally subject to criminal charges and substantial penalties.

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In Nigeria today, anyone who wilfully fail to pay taxes is liable to prosecution by the Federal Inland Revenue Services or their state equivalent. To me, that is a serious offense that deserves serious sanctions, LEGALLY.

But beneath the surface, there is a more germane problem that has to do with the tax collection policy and the use to which the public perceives its usage. The tricycle operators complain of paying a minimum of one hundred naira daily to the government and when you multiply that by their number, the amount accruing quarterly or yearly is so colossal, and the suspicion is that in banking the money, the government is not engaging those principles that have to do with the distinction between what’s right or wrong. The allegation is that the money gets stuffed or pocketed, without recourse to the consequences of the effect of good or bad behaviour. To me, this is a serious offense that deserves serious sanctions, MORALLY.

Late Professor Ali Mazrui once talked about the morals of stealing from a thief. When people loose confidence in leaders, or see their leaders as looters, at every given opportunity they would cheat or undercut the system, because to them, they are cheating the leaders, or better put, the looters. They feel it is a patriotic duty to steal from a thief, or cheat a cheat.

Anyone who behaves dishonestly in order to gain an advantage is a cheat, and it is suspected that in Kano, under Governor Ganduje, such behaviour is commonplace.

In an attempt to resolve the problem, the Speaker, Kano state House of Assembly, Engr. Hamisu Chidari, yesterday waded into the matter, by calling on the trike operators to suspend the strike action. On his side, the speaker said the Assembly will mediate by reaching out to the leadership of the Kano Road Traffic Agency, KAROTA, and the tricycle operators for a round table meeting to resolve the matter peacefully.

This is indeed a good move that is legitimately legal. But the move would be better if accompanied by a legitimately moral proviso, that the House should also rise to the occasion, by discharging their constitutional responsibility of checkmating the public perception of the wrong flow of cash amongst high profile officers, the cash of which are suspected to be the proceeds of crime.

Doing that would get everyone out of the tormenting tight spot, including the head of the government, take off the tax trauma out of the minds of the trike operators, and relieve the governor of the moral burden of engaging spinners to explain the unexplainable.

Ibrahim, a media advisor writes from Abuja

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