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NLC shuts down Nasarawa offices over PAYE tax

By Bodunrin Beckley, Lafia
04 February 2010   |   11:00 pm
RISING from a marathon meeting which lasted late into Tuesday night, the chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Nasarawa State, Asoloko Marku, said that the industrial action which had shut down the civil service in Nasarawa State since Monday this week over the government's handling of PAYE tax was far from being resolved as it had entered its third day.

The chairman who spoke exclusively to The Guardian recently regretted that inspite of two days of talks with the government representatives in Lafia, they were still at a standstill in the vexed issue of increased taxation which the workers were bitter about.

He said that the government side in the negotiations which was chaired by the Deputy Governor, Michael Abdul were still insisting that the new tax regime continued while they were saying that the decision was too sudden and, therefore, not in the interest of even the political appointees whose income tax had been increased by four hundred and fifty per cent.

He regretted that special parastatals like the Nasarawa State Broadcasting Corporation would have to pay one hundred and fifty per cent especially those from level seven and above, while those of Dalhatu ARAF Specialist Hospital (DASH) will now pay two hundred and fifty per cent more than they used to pay.

The chairman went on: "We have tried all we can to let them see reason why the tax cannot continue, but it looks as if the issue is falling on deaf ears. As a matter of fact if the new tax regime is a Federal Government regime we are not in contention about that. Our worry, however, is why should a poor state like Nasarawa be the first to implement it?

"This government is not being fair to us and the people of the state. They are not operating as if they have human feelings for the poor workers. You cannot tax all the allowance of poor workers in the state who are not getting as much as their contemporaries in other states. That would be very unfair and we are in democracy where we should be able to sit down collectively and achieve a solution.

"The government has been giving the impression that we are not law abiding and that we are rejecting tax payments, but that is not true…we are not rejecting tax payment. As a matter of fact we are aware that this law has been on since 2004 and we are ready to conform with it, but we are asking that they set up a committee to iron out the grey areas and they can begin to collect their full ten per cent tax from February."

Asoloko regretted that inspite of the lean resources of the state, the government was still taxing its citizens and other tax payers in a cut throat manner adding that there was no justification for the state to put so much emphasis on tax at the detriment of the common man’s take home pay.

According to him as soon as the state government backs down on their very unfair insistence of taking cut throat tax to beef up their revenue, the strike action would be called off.

Meanwhile a representative of the Joint Negotiating Council, Kande Bala, who spoke with The Guardian earlier alleged that the government was uneconomical with the truth in alleging that they were duly informed about the planned hike of PAYE tax in the state.

He held that the government never met with the labour as alleged because if they did they should have known that taking N3,000 from a level eight officers meagre pay of N15,800 renders the man useless in the face of the myriad of all his responsibility facing him.

He went on: "We want them to reverse this draconian decision and create room for dialogue. We are in a democracy and not a military regime where they can just force something down our throat and expect us to accept. They must reverse to the last PV before we accept any negotiation.

"My brother, we live in a sorry state in this Nasarawa and almost every state of the Federation earn better than us. If they must increase their tax they must give us all our dues by way of all the unimplemented circulars then we would be in the position to congratulate them and allow them to take the ten per cent.

"It is also laughable that they are taxing us and we have never filled any tax rebate form since we left Plateau over thirteen years ago. Even the seven thousand five hundred naira they claim to be paying workers is with all the allowance. Our basic for level one is just over four thousand in this day of petroleum deregulation, school fees and all manner of problems and now they want to take what they are giving us through taxes.

"God forbid! We will not allow them. If they refuse to bend, we may have to drag them to the industrial court while the status quo remains the same and trust me they will loose…"

On the government side of the late night negotiation also was the Commissioner of Justice, Commissioner of Finance, Head of Nasarawa State Service, Federal and State Director’s of Labour, while Asoloko was supported by the Trade Union Congress, Joint Negotiation Council, Resident Doctors (NARD) and university teachers, ASUU.