Edo Governor Adams Oshiomhole has warned that tax defaulters in the state risk prison sentences, saying government will no longer treat them with kid gloves.
Oshiomhole gave the warning in Benin on Thursday at the plenary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) held at the St. Mathews Anglican Cathedral.
He said that while the poor and low-income earners were willing to pay their taxes, those who could easily afford to pay preferred to flout the tax law.
“In Edo, we have tried to emphasise that we must reinvent the concept of tax. We must properly manage the taxpayers’ money.
“Today the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) is on strike over the issue of tax. The tax issue is a federal law not made by me.
“Those people who believe that because they are working in sensitive places is an excuse to evade tax need a rethink.
“If a sick person is brought to the hospital, the fact of his being sick does not preclude the person from paying for his treatment,’’ he said.
Oshiomhole noted that he had on some occasions paid the medical bills of indigent patients at the UBTH, who were treated but were not discharged because they were unable to settle their bills.
“If you can detain the poor on account of being unable to pay for his treatment, who are you not to pay tax?
“We have also at one point sealed the PHCN and PPMC offices for tax evasion.
If motor mechanic and Okoda rider pay their tax, then, there is no reason why a federal agency would think that because they come from Abuja, they would not pay their tax.
“It is very fashionable in Nigeria for people to spend N50 million on weddings, N100 million on birthdays and even much more to celebrate the dead.
“But for such persons, to pay even five per cent as tax, he is not ready to pay.
“In such a situation, it is better to send them to prison, just to remind them that the prison is not meant for only the poor. The prison is meant for those who break the law.’’
He expressed regrets that 52 years after independence the people were getting poorer and attributed this to the quality or absence of good governance.
According to him, the state must create good environment for the people to operate.? If the politicians try to divert attention, the church must stand on the side of truth.
“In Edo State, we have tried our best, first to regain our self-confidence that Edo State is viable, and we have made some modest efforts to halt the drift and restore hope.
“But what we have done is nothing compared to what we need to do to get to the level that we deserve.’’
Earlier, the Chairman of the state chapter of CAN, Rt. Rev. Peter Imasuen, said that 2012 plenary was tagged: “Fostering Good Governance”.
“Good governance is all about accountability and transparency.? Despite increasing democracy and stability in sub-Saharan Africa, corruption and conflict remain serious barriers to ending extreme poverty,’’ he said.
Imaseun said that the nation’s multifarious woes were effects of bad governance over the years.