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Osagie Idemudia: Oshiomhole’s tax war against the Esama


Osagie Idemudia: Oshiomhole’s tax war against the Esama

by Osagie Idemudia

As far as Oshiomhole is concerned, Igbinedion is his political enemy who never wanted him to have a second term and the man sponsoring protests against his government on the new law. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

RECENTLY, the Edo State House of Assembly passed an executive bill tagged: “Land Use Charge Bill”. The bill was introduced on the floor of the House by Honourable Phillip Shuaibu, the Majority Leader. The bill had a rough ride through the House with some members vehemently opposing it on behalf of their constituencies. The Land Use Charge seeks to impose tax on landed property. Upon its first and second readings at the plenary, the bill elicited spontaneous reactions from the general public in Edo State, most of whom denounced it. The opposition to the bill was so loud and strong that the Speaker of the House, Uyi Igbe, attempted to calm frayed nerves by pledging that public hearing would be conducted on the bill.

Rather than further enlightening the public on the bill by holding the promised public hearing, however, parliament went to sleep and to the chagrin of the people of Edo State, they woke up one morning to find that the bill had been rushed through the third reading and final passage, thus dealing a fatal blow to democracy and the much-trumpeted slogan of the Oshiomhole administration: “Let the people lead”. Within 24 hours of the passage of the bill by the House, Governor Oshiomhole signed the Land Use Charge bill into law, threatening fire and brimstone on any one who dared to oppose the law.   Imprisonment was one of the options he promised anyone who proved recalcitrant in respecting the new law.

As a responsible citizen, I want to say there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Edo State Land Use Charge Law 2012. The purpose of government globally is to improve the standard of living of the people  through the provision of basic infrastructural facilities and amenities such as good roads, electricity and, of course, security of life and property. To achieve these goals, government needs money. This is why apart from government depending on the natural resources of a country, it also goes the extra mile to impose tax on individuals and corporate citizens.

In introducing the Land Use Charge bill in parliament, government put the wrong foot forward. Yes, it is a fact that it is the Majority Leader of the House that introduces government’s bills. This task rightly fell on Shuaibu on that fateful day, but to the disappointment of the discerning people of Edo State, the lawmaker performed the assignment so badly. Shuaibu’s performance was even more unbecoming when protesters against the bill came calling at the House. Decked in the same apron of “Edo Youth Congress” that some of the protesters were donning probably as a ploy to show esprit de corps and win their sympathy and understanding, the Majority Leader told the protesters that the new law had nothing to do with them because they were poor (as if poverty is itself a virtue). The new law, he added, was aimed at “Esama” Chief Igbinedion who, he asserted, owned property “from street to street” in the Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin City.

He repeated this insult several times in halting English in the course of his reckless, undiplomatic defence of the new law and his principal. This unmitigated insult to a great son of Edo State further angered the protesters. As the interaction progressed, Shuaibu told the protesters that they were unlimited! While it is true tax policies are generally aimed at taking from the rich to give to the poor as a way of creating an equitable society and sustaining peaceful co-existence among citizens across the socio-economic strata of society, it is also true that government must not target a single individual in order to press home its point.

Oshiomhole has been seen to spiritedly counter all opposition to the new law, which the people describe as draconian by holding town hall meetings with selected party loyalists. During these meetings, the governor always launched thinly-veiled attack on Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Esama of Benin Kingdom and his television station – ITV. He demonises the chief and his broadcast medium as those responsible for his travails. As far as Oshiomhole is concerned, Igbinedion is his political enemy who never wanted him to have a second term and the man sponsoring protests against his government on the new law. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Those who have had the privilege of reading the law will tell you that it covers almost all citizens everywhere in Edo State except churches and palaces of traditional rulers.  Oshiomhole ought to be told that a law that targets one individual in conception and birth is tainted and cannot be actionable. It is a stillborn child that cannot stand the test of time. My advice to the governor is that he should quietly dump the Land Use Charge Law, which has already attracted so much public odium to the government of Edo State.

With regards to the insult and disrespect heaped on Chief Igbinedion by Shuaibu and his mentor in the Land Use Charge Law altercation, I can only express the profound sorrow, disapproval and anger of all true Bini sons and daughters. This is one man who has taken the name of Benin Kingdom to different places on the globe. Apart from the fact that he achieved the singular feat of establishing the first private university in Nigeria, he is the highest employer of labour in Edo State.

He is a tireless and quintessential giver. He regularly donates his personal funds to the cause of charity, to churches of various denominations and to public and private institutions /organisations. As part of his birthday celebration every year, he commits millions of naira and qualified professional medical teams to offer free medical services to his fellow men and women who are sick but cannot afford the cost of treatment.

– This Best Outside Opinion was culled from The Guardian

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