Govt ‘Undue’ IGR Drive Killing Business | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Govt ‘Undue’ IGR Drive Killing Business

Posted: May 10, 2016 at 9:04 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)



…Lagos Outdoor Operators Spoil For War With Govt


The renewed internal generated revenue (IGR) drive by most state governments is now taking a toll on business operations, especially small and medium scale firms, Independent has gathered.

The operatives of the different agencies entrusted to collect internally generated revenue have pushed back operations of most of the businesses as most of them are either high-handed or have instituted fees that are largely not payable.

This has resulted to some of the businesses, especially the small ones, operating covertly or practically thrown out of business.

In Lagos, Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Anambra etc. the story is the same as the states have instituted multiple agencies for similar or the same business operations.

Nigeria’s telecommunications operators have variously complained of multiple taxes and fees at local, state and federal levels, with service disruptions related to tax claims costing the sector billions of dollars annually.

The federal, state and local governments all have tax-raising powers, leading to multiple taxation of companies, a source told Independent.

“Operators have been seeking a one-stop shop to ease administration of taxes,” the source continued, adding that business operators suffer arbitrary enforcement actions and service disruptions by parties working on behalf of tax-raising bodies.”

The high-handed operation of the various agencies is already brewing a fresh crisis in Lagos State between outdoor operators and the state-owned agency, Lagos State Parks and Garden Agency (LASPARK), over the latter’s valuation cost for all its sites scattered around the city.

The valuation cost which had sparked outrage among operators in the outdoor industry since it was released is coming at a time the operators were still battling to resolve myriad of issues surrounding their business relationship with another sister agency, the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA).

Independent gathered that LASPARK, a newly introduced agency created during the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola, may have received enforcement order from this present government to sanction erring operators in the event that any of them failed to pay what is due within stipulated period.

Findings by Independent revealed that the enforcement order did not apply to the new agency alone but other agencies as it has mandated them to generate revenue to tackle governance issues in the face of dwindling allocation from the Federal Government.

With this development, practitioners across the state have been lamenting over the yet to be enforced fee, stressing that the government may well be out to push the industry into extinction.

A source who spoke with Independent on the matter said the latest attempt to strangulate practitioners through imposition of outrageous fees by different kinds of government agencies could be a ploy to kill the industry even as he wonders what interest that would serve the government if such arbitrariness is allowed to continue.

One of the practitioners, Emmanuel Ajufo, who is also the vice president of Outdoor Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (OAAN), noted that it was obvious that government was being insensitive to the plight of business owners and the mood of the nation especially against the background of high rate of unemployment in the country.

According to him, the introduction of new fees by government could force many operators to down-size their workers, leaving many families who are dependent on this category of the employed to their fate.

While some have argued that government interest in introducing such new agency may be targeted towards increasing revenue base, some industry watchers are of the view that the latest action may be another approach to pave way for a supposed foreign agency to take over virtually all the major sites in Lagos.

Inside sources from the regulator of the industry disclosed that plans have reached advanced stage to register the supposed foreign agency, Jean De Caux, a move many local practitioners have considered injurious to the growth of the sector. While some practitioners have posited that there was nothing wrong in a foreign agency playing in the market provided the rules are adhered to, the subtle move by the regulator, LASAA, which seems to be at the forefront of the registration process of the supposed agency is seen to be suspect fuelling speculations that the regulator may be behind the move.

Femi Ogala, general secretary, OAAN, who expressed his frustration while speaking with Independent, said the situation may soon become unbearable for them even as he called on government to exercise restraint to avoid crippling the outdoor business.

He said, “We are going through a lot in this industry. Some of us are worried that the action of government may push us out of the business. As I speak, I was handed a bill by LASAA when I was still ruminating over the LASPARK charges. “We are indeed troubled by these outrageous fees. I have been in this business for 25 years. It has not been this tough. If I have a choice, I could have abandoned the business for other things. But I think I don’t have the nerve to dabble into an unfamiliar terrain at this age. I need to state that some of our members have lost their lives as a result of this heavy debt burden”.

A document obtained by Independent revealed that a billboard mounted in a garden, for example, costs as high as N24 million, a cost which many practitioners consider too exorbitant.

Breaking it down into specifics, the source disclosed that the loop on Toll Gate to Oworonshoki Road in Lagos attracts a fee of N24 million while the one located under the bridge leading to Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, also costs as much as N16 million. At the least, triangular layby at Pen Cinema, Agege, Lagos, attracts a fee of N245,700.