Lagos private schools groan under multiple taxation
Private school operators in Lagos State are crying out over the yoke of multiple taxation, allegedly thrust upon them by the Lagos State government.
Peeved by the development, which they claim has persisted for a while now, the school owners under the aegis of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), were recently at the Lagos State House of Assembly to intimate the lawmakers of the levies charged by agents of government some of which they consider frivolous. They were led by their Deputy National President, Yomi Otubela.
Shedding light on the issue of multiple taxation, President of the Lagos State chapter of NAPPS, Kamal Akande, who explained that school proprietors were made to pay for radio/television levies, added that local council staff who came to demand for such levies were in the habit of arresting staff members of affected schools necessitating the intervention of top officials of the Ministry of Education and those of the Ministry of Local Government to secure their releases.
According to Akande, “They (government officials) get us to register online yearly with amounts ranging from N5, 000 to N10, 000 even when we already have been approved. Only new schools should be paying such fees.
“The state government has also increased dues paid by private schools by 400 per cent such that those that were paying N70, 000 now pay N250, 000, but we told our members not to pay yet until we meet the necessary government officials.
“Our members are groaning under so many levies such as business premises levy, industrial training levy, entertainment or merriment levy, building approval fees and most of the charges are not receipted,” he said.
Otubela in his remarks, sought the assembly’s intervention to stave off the demand for gratification from private schools owners by some officials of the Education Ministry, adding that this development has also contributed its quota to the proliferation of mushroom schools with sub-standard equipment and unqualified teachers.
He urged the assembly to come to the group’s rescue, adding that there was need to harmonise the school calendar and ensure that a session lasts for between 38 to 39 weeks so as to facilitate the coverage of the scheme of work for each term.
The NAPPS chieftain who advocated the study of Yoruba language in schools in the state as against what operates in some private schools, also said that, “The government should ensure that everybody adopts the national curriculum of education regardless of whether the schools are owned by indigenous people or foreigners.
“The examination board should regulate the textbooks that are used in the schools and encourage indigenous authors so that they could be creative,” he added.
Chairman of the House Committee on Education, Lanre Ogunyemi, said that the assembly was well disposed to collaborating with private school proprietors to move education in the state forward.
While calling on everyone to close ranks in order to move the sector to higher heights, he explained that the reason why policies were made, tested and reviewed where necessary, was because of the fact that no government was perfect.
“The issues you raised are germane and they can move education forward in the state. You need to give us a comprehensive proposal, which we can use for our education. We are committed as a committee and as an assembly to have the best of education at both private and public schools levels.
“Taxes are important for the government to survive because what we collect from the Federal Government cannot sustain the state, but we will not drive you out of business just as we would not allow quackery in education sector.
The lawmaker who said the government would not hesitate to clamp down on unregistered schools as was earlier done, promised that a stakeholders meeting and education summit would soon be organised in the state to find a lasting solution to issues affecting education.
However, while the school owners are seeking attention, the state government only recently threatened to close any private schools that does not meet the basic standards set.
Deputy Governor/Commissioner for Education, Dr. Idiat Adebule, at a stakeholders meeting with proprietors of private schools last Thursday, said that it had became imperative to strictly enforce laws guiding the operations of private schools in the state in order to ensure standard and orderliness in the sector.
Adebule, who promised to meet with the appropriate tax authorities to review levies, dues and taxes, decried the rot witnessed in the operations of private schools in the state, particularly in the conduct of external examinations.
The deputy governor who said things must change regarding the operation and regulation of these schools, advocated attitudinal change among all stakeholders.
“Teachers are known for discipline, they are known for high values and moral. So government will no longer tolerate indiscipline in the operations and regulations of private schools in Lagos State,” Adebule stated.
According to her, “We recognise your role in the sector and as a government, we will ensure that you get all the support and we are ready to partner with you to move the sector forward… Statistics show that we have over 11, 000 private schools in the state, but only 4, 000 are registered with the Ministry of Education, meaning that many are operating illegally.
“Many private schools do not employ qualified teachers and school administrators and at the end, students’ outcome and performances will be negatively affected… Right now we are dealing with the cases of 25 schools sanctioned by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for malpractices. This is not good at all as it affects the state in terms of national rating.
I urged school owners to stop cutting corners for the sake of making money and protect the integrity of the education sector, “ she said.
She informed that the Office of Education Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Education has been split into two for efficiency and effectiveness, and in order to strengthen the monitoring and supervision responsibilities of the office.
She added that the government would soon undertake a census of private schools in the state, adding that the state government was already working closely with the Department For International Development (DFID) to maintain high standard in the sector.
Meanwhile, educationist and proprietor of Akinrotoye Memorial International Schools, Ayobo, Lagos, Dr. Paul Akinrotoye, says the various taxes, which private schools in the country are charged adversely affect the development of education in the country.
He therefore wants all tiers of governments, across the country to see education as a social service, and a developmental tool through which all classes of the citizens must be developed.
“Yearly the Lagos State government charges me N70, 000 annual due; N100, 000 as personal income tax and I still pay land use charge. The impression government has is that school owners make a lot of profit from tuition fees without giving due consideration to the location of the school, the population of pupils/students and the intention behind the establishment of many schools.”
“In the United States where I trained, there are private schools owned by individuals and churches. The US government is conscious of the fact that the delivery of education by both public and private schools is a social service. It is aware that the products of private schools are agents of societal development like those who attended public schools. That is why taxes, which private schools pay are very minimal.
He continued, “Governments in the country should take a cue from this because the taxes they demand from private schools are not in the best interest of education in the country.”
The proprietor urged governments to regularly take steps that would empower private schools instead of exploiting them. So, “Government should reduce the yearly dues to a maximum of N30, 000 while personal income tax should not also be more than N30, 000. This is an ICT age, and schools need a lot of human and financial resources to make their pupils/students computer literate. Many schools, including mine are struggling to survive because we have a lot of expenses to meet.
“For instance, I have to pay my staff, both teaching and non-teaching staff every month because I don’t like to owe. Yet, many parents default in paying school fees. In fact, we have seen cases of parents who withdrew their children and took away our money. Many schools experience this aberrant behaviour, and these are great financial losses, the effect of which can only be mitigated if government reduces schools’ taxes”.