The Federal Government may have triggered another round of fresh controversy with its latest move to force motorists to renew their vehicle proof of ownership certificate at a fee of N1000 annually. The new policy is already generating reactions from various quarters. Some citizens are of the view that the policy is insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.
Those who hold the opinion argued that since Nigerians are still trying to come to terms with the reality of the fuel subsidy removal, which effects have spread sorrow and untold hardship across the Nigerian society, it was ill conceived for the Federal Government to impose another fee on the citizens.
They further argued that the policy coming when the dust raised by the subsidy removal has not settled down would not augur well.
“The subsidy removal has such cyclical effects that apart from doubling, and sometimes tripling or even quadrupling the transport cost, it has also negatively affected the cost of essential goods and services, particularly food items. And the income of most salary earners remains static; no increment,” a concerned Lagos resident, Ayodele Kehinde volunteered. The citizens are therefore calling on the government to revisit the policy.
However, there are those who believe that it is within the government’s right to generate revenue for the effective and efficient running of government, but decried the timing.
They argued that Nigerians are still grappling with the fallouts of the fuel subsidy removal policy, and that introducing the vehicle proof of ownership renewal at this point in time, was ill-timed.
Yet, there are those who believe that Nigerians are already over-taxed and adding any extra tax in any form, under any guise, would amount to overburdening the poor masses.
Another concerned Lagos resident and car owner, Maxwell Chibuike is lost as to the purpose of renewing his vehicle’s proof of ownership.
He said: “What is the purpose of annually renewing the proof of ownership certificate? Does renewing it not mean that I no longer own my car? I understand the need for annual renewal of road worthiness and insurance.
“But, why should there be an annual renewal for proof of ownership? It seems that our focus is solely on generating revenue without shedding light on how it is being utilised.
“Must they always burden the masses with financial obligations to fund their own desires? What happened to reducing the excessive cost of governance and saving billions of naira?’’
Another resident claimed that since the inception of the government on May 29, it has not implemented any policy that directly favoured the downtrodden.
“We are yet to see anything on the proposed palliatives to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal; even the N8,000 they are talking about for 12 million households, how would that ameliorate the suffering of over 200 million Nigerians,” David Ogar lamented.
A Twitter user, Chinwemmeri, had this to say: “For those who think the N1000 annual fee for the renewal of the proof of ownership certificate is just cheap, and that people should not complain, they should know that it’s just a strategy by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to start first with small amount, and later increase the price to even as high as N20,000. It’s a yearly fine by the APC for not being poor.’’
Also lending his voice to the debate is the president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shetima.
He believes that the federal government has not done anything abnormal, but stressed that money realised from such taxation must not be mismanaged.
He said: “Well, taxation is a means through which governments everywhere in the world generate revenue to cater for the welfare and well-being of its citizens.
“I don’t see anything wrong if the federal government or any state government decides that it wants to generate revenue internally through the renewal of vehicle proof of ownership certificate, especially since it is once in a year.
“It is done in other countries of the world and ours in Nigeria cannot be an inception. But, where I have a problem with such a policy is if such monies are not channelled to projects or things that will benefit the poor masses.
“The government should put measures in place to ensure that the money realised from such taxation is properly accounted for, and used for the purpose they were meant for.
“A situation where such money ends up in a private purse would not be tolerated. It should not be an avenue to enrich some people at the expense of Nigerians.
“Once the issue of accountability is addressed and there is hope that the proceeds would be deployed for the good of the people, I don’t have any issue with such taxation.”
But, for the president of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, it is not good for any government to over tax its citizens.
He believes that Nigerians are being overburdened with taxation; a development he advised the government to have a rethink and look for alternative means of generating income rather than pauperizing and tormenting the citizenry.
He said: “In developed societies, taxation is one of the sources of revenue for governments. However, when a government over taxes its citizens, the poor get poorer while the rich get richer.
“In our own case, where we are now being milked dry through the removal of fuel subsidy, which remains questionable anyway, adding more taxes is not desirable.
“This is because when the people cannot go to the farms because of banditry and general insecurity, and even the small amount of money paid to the civil servants is being taken away through multiple taxations, it only impoverishes and torments the people.”
He insisted that instead of taking N1000 from the motorists, the government should find people who are at the top end of the echelon to get more from them, so that the poor man at the bottom could survive.
“Too much taxation is not good for anyone. The government needs to have a rethink on how to generate revenue rather than imposing taxes on people indiscriminately just to get some money,” he submitted.
He also wondered how much the government intends to generate by imposing such a tax on Nigerians at this austere period.
“And you then ask: How many people are registering vehicles on a yearly basis and how much is going to come into the government coffers through that N1000 renewal fee. How much money will that rake in for the government?
“In some states, we are paying for the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR; we are paying income tax, vehicle licence and so many other taxes.
“It is not good for us and the economy, and I believe that whatever the government is going to get from that is not that much compared to what the government may gain by allowing people to improve in productivity, so that we can build the economy. But, too much taxation is not good for anyone,” he stated.
Recall that on May 9, 2023, after the meeting of the Joint Tax Board, the Federal Government had announced the introduction of an annual fee of N1, 000 to be paid by motorists in the country for Proof of Ownership Certificate (POC) verification.
This was made known to Lagosians on Tuesday, June 27, by the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Abdulhafiz Toriola.
Toriola, who announced that the commencement of the annual renewal of the proof of ownership certificate for vehicles registered within the state, would start from July 1, 2023, also said the certificate would help vehicle owners and the government to guarantee the integrity of all vehicles registered on the National Vehicle and Identification Scheme database, as well as track car theft and recovery of stolen vehicles.
According to him, “The annual proof of ownership certificate is in compliance with the legal requirements that are fundamental to transparency, security and accountability within the transportation network.
“To this end, the Federal Government has introduced the issuance of annual proof of ownership certificate for all registered vehicles. This certificate will serve as official documentation of a vehicle’s legal owners upon successful completion of the necessary requirements and procedures. The POC will contain vital information, including the vehicle’s registration details, such as licence number plate, model and year of manufacture, in addition to the owner’s name and address.
“Having critically reviewed the challenges encountered in ensuring promotion of the safety and security of lives and property through the issuance of POC nationally, and especially in our dear state, the Joint Tax Board, JTB, in its communiqué issued at the end of the emergency meeting held on May 9, 2023, adopted and made a resolution that proof of ownership be issued to motorists on an annual basis nationwide. The Lagos State Government will commence the collection of the fee for POC from motorists beginning from July 2023.”
However, as Nigerians continued to react, with many condemning the move, and others applauding it, the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest Law, NBA-SPIDEL, has set up a team to examine the legality of the Federal Government’s imposition of N1,000 annual proof of ownership fee on vehicle owners.
A joint statement by NBA-SPIDEL’s Chairman and Secretary, John Aikpokpo-Martins and Funmi Adeogun, said: “Pursuant to our mandate as the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest Litigation and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), which among others, is to defend the interest of the public against oppressive and illegal policies of public authorities, as well as the overall objective of the NBA to defend the rights of the people, we, the officers of SPIDEL hereby set up this legal team to critically examine the legality of the policy, and take necessary legal actions, including litigation, to frontally challenge same immediately.”
The statement also listed members of the NBA-SPIDEL’s legal team to include Kunle Edun, Francis Ogunbowale, Maxwell Opara, Felix Akpowowo, Adeola Folarin, Ibrahim Al-Hussein and Izu Aniagu. “Ikeazor Akaraiwe, SAN, remains the consultant to the team,” the statement added.