Home Transportation Transport taxes: FG, states lose billions to non-state actors, experts lament

Transport taxes: FG, states lose billions to non-state actors, experts lament

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Federal and state governments have been tasked to find lasting solutions to the persistent fleecing of the state in transport tax collection by non-state actors and touts popularly referred to as agbero.

To stem the tide of revenue loss, experts are calling for digitising road tax collection from commercial vehicles, tricycles, and motorcycles to deter the diversion of billions by individuals and groups.

The call for governments at all levels to deal with the widespread transport tax scam was made during an anti-corruption radio programme, Public Conscience, produced by Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG), on Wednesday, in Abuja. It follows a recent investigative report published by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) on how Rivers State government is losing about N55 billion transport tax proceeds to touts and officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).

Political economist, Olamilekan Adefolarin led the call for government at all levels to swing into action against the continuous defrauding of states by touts and non-state actors who collect transport taxes across the country.

While noting that corruption in road tax administration is widespread and an arduous task for the government to address, Adefolarin called on state governments to review concessions of transport tax collection and adopt technology in receiving payments.

He said that “patronage between politicians who run for public offices and members of NURTW remains a significant enabler of corruption in transport tax administration, adding that the unfortunate development happens across the country.

“The issue is that when the money is collected, nobody’s asking for accountability. The problem lies within the non-accountability of this money and the usage of the money because the NURTW sees the money as free money and that free money caters to certain aspects of their individual and group life, particularly when the government says they don’t want to put a human face to tax collection.

“Political patronage between these non-state actors and political leaders gives rise to this problem. Although it is an arduous task to stop it, it is possible”.

Stressing that digitising the collection of road taxes will reduce corruption massively, Adefolarin said that public officeholders lack the political will to push for the adoption.

The Managing Editor of Nairametrics, Odinaka Anudu lamented the lacklustre attitude of the Rivers State government frontally addressing the defrauding of the state in road taxes.

He revealed that the corruption is bolstered because of politics and that politicians who use members of NURTW and touts as electioneering tools.

The “problem is not only in Rivers state but cuts across all the states, prominently in Lagos, as well as in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital”, he added.

On the possibility of deploying technology in transport tax collection, Anudu said: “The problem is that the NURTW is already an institution in Rivers State, and collecting funds electronically will translate to them losing money. When it is digitized, the money flow could stop, and these guys are used as political tools during elections, so one needs to be very careful, but anyway, it’s because there’s no political will”.

He said the investigation uncovered that the state generates a minimum of N55.234 billion from 62,418 commercial vehicles, 24,432 tricycles, and 10,892 motorcycles in road taxes yearly. Still, only 0.41 percent of the money goes into the government coffers.

He disclosed that the fraud was unravelled through the undercover report, which availed the journalist the opportunity to speak with 24 NURTW officials in nine local government areas of the state, including Port Harcourt, Obio-Akpor, Ahaoda East, Eleme, Ikwerre, Oyigbo, Gokana, Khana and Tai.

Callers into the radio programme raised concerns over accountability issues of the taxes collected by transport unions and touts on Nigerian roads, asking the government to tackle the corruption going on and block holes of revenue loss.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio programme PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

It has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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