AJEGUNLE: Multiple Tax, Yet No Development
AJEGUNLE: Multiple Tax, Yet No Development
By Aderemi Ismail
The city of Rome was built with the blood and sweat of slaves. The same is true of capitalist civilization today which is built on the blood and sweat of working class and poor people. In Lagos State, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)-led government of the State wishes to build a mega-city on the bones of workers, poor traders and artisans. Ostensibly to raise money for development, the state government has developed a system of cut-throat multiple taxation targeted at the very poor in society i.e. workers, bus drivers and okada riders, small scale traders and artisans whose daily revenue barely covers daily family expenses. This combined with the condition of generalized poverty in Ajegunle has turned the lives of its resident into a nightmare. ISMAILA ADEREMI, member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) Branch in Ajegunle (fondly called A.J City) report:
In Ajegunle – a poor working class district in Lagos State – majority of whose inhabitant already wallow in unimaginable poverty, harsh economic hardship and exploitation, the issue of multiple taxation being implemented by the Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government authorities headed by its chairman, Kamal Bayewu, has become a serious problem which threatens the already sparse livelihood of traders and residents of the community.
Many poor traders and residents of the community are being over-taxed in the name of generating internal revenue in order to meet-up with developmental project in the city. The taxes paid have recently increased, thus threatening to force many traders out of their business and creating terrible problems for a people already grappling with poverty, destitution, homelessness, joblessness and generalized want. In many cases traders and artisans are forced to pay 3 to 4 different taxes and more, such as trade permit, lock-up shop permit and radio/TV license. Also, the Local Government is not only over-charging the people, but charging taxes which are not stipulated in the enabling law that states the kind of taxes and tax range to be collected by the Local Government. This in turn is an indication of the anti-poor and exploitative character of the ACN government in Lagos State.
IS THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT?
For the past 12 years of ACN governance of the State and despite the taxes being paid by the people, Ajegunle people have witnessed nothing but set-back in their living standard and inadequate development in basic infrastructures. The condition at the Dustbin Estate at Awodi-Ora/Ojo road where many poor people who cannot afford the huge house rent in better-equipped estates live is one example of the failure of government at the Federal, State and Local level.
However, this is not the only case in Ajegunle. Many areas do not have good access road. Streets likes Ojora, Awodi-Ora, Nosamu, Achakpo, Wilmer-Coconut road, Babani, and many major roads have become death-traps for commuters and residents of Ajegunle. Indeed during raining season, canoes always appear as the best means of transport on these roads.
The condition of the education sector in the community is nothing to write about. Many schools have no facilities for quality learning. Classroom overcrowding has become a norm while there is also the issue of shortage of teachers as some of the subjects have no teachers at all.
Furthermore, the issue of pipe-borne water is another problem in Ajegunle. While the State government/Local government are running a media commentary that more than 5000 gallons of water is being produced per day, the reverse is the case in Ajegunle were many people have no access to clean pipe-borne water. This in turn has led to upsurge in the spread of malaria and cholera because the water the resident’s drink is often contaminated and unhealthful for human consumption.
Talking of environmental issue; while it is the sole responsibility of the Local Government to ensure that the community is clean, the local government Chairman has contracted the public waste-disposal service to its political big business criminals. Residents are often overcharged in order to access this public service. The issue of charges is not the only problem. Sometimes, the waste-carriers may not even come for two months, thus forcing many people to dispose their refuse on the major roads. The implication of this is that, many streets in Ajegunle have become refuse grounds thus causing serious environmental hazard for the people and blockage of drainages and sewers.
The truth of the matter is that, while Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government has the largest population and received the highest allocation from Federal/State Account; there is no tangible development in basic public infrastructures to show for it. Instead what we have witnessed are bad roads, poor environment and no social services that can improve the well-being of Ajegunle people.
The Chairman and the Councillors have been running the affairs of the local government like a family private business while also siphoning public money without any provision of social services that can better the lives of the poor. This again brings to mind that “Mega City” propaganda of the ACN-led Government of Fashola in Lagos state is a mirage when it comes to the interest of the poor working class people.
Yet, working and poor people in Lagos and particularly in Ajegunle are being burdened with criminal Multiple Taxation from the State and Local Government. In fact nowadays, the Local Government now charge cooking meat permit, pepper soup permit, and many other ridiculous permits contrary to public policy.
FOR A COMMUNITY-WIDE RESISTANCE AND FIGHT BACK
Without a serious resistance by Ajegunle residents, workers, traders, youths and poor masses, this fraudulent taxation policy will continue to worsen the living standards of the people. Ajegunle has a history of struggle and mass resistance against police harassment, exploitation by local authorities and for improvement in public infrastructures. Last year, a campaign of mass protest by youths and poor masses in Ajegunle defeated harassment and unwarranted arrest of youths and resident of the community by the police.
This is why the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) is calling on Ajegunle residents, traders and youths to organize to defend themselves against multiple taxation. Protest, demonstrations and other form of mass resistance must be organized to resist this wicked anti-poor policy with demands for immediate review of the taxation system to remove duplications and multiple taxes, public scrutiny of the financial account of the Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government by democratically elected committee representing the community and rapid improvement in road, electricity, water, education and health care facilities in Ajegunle Community.
A starting point of this campaign can be a decision of traders, shop owners and residents of the community not to pay taxes until the demands are met by the local government. This however will require the formation of democratic “struggle committees” in all nooks and crannies of the community manned by active youths and residents of Ajegunle Community with functions to ensure compliance and to organize actions like rallies, protests and demonstrations.