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Traders battle Ortom, shutdown Benue

Written By Idoma Television on Monday, July 25, 2016 | 12:58:00 AM

By Bemgba Iortyom
Traders and buyers associations in Benue State have staged a massive protest in Lessel town, the headquarters of Ushongo LGA which has led to a blockage of the major state highway running through the area. 

The Tiv Beranda Association, the Buyers Association and Tomatoes and Pepper Traders Association all are protesting what they say is multiple and high taxation imposed on their businesses by the government of the state in the various markets across the state.

Investigations have discovered many farm produce, most of which are perishable, are subjected to multiple layers of taxation both on the famers, the middlemen and the end buyers, a situation which has made business slow, with attendant losses being suffered by farmers who must sell at whatever price to avoid their produce perishing. 

A bag of fresh pepper which is currently selling at the cost of N1000.00 attracts a multiple layer of levies from the Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) cumulatively amounting to over N700.00, leaving the trader with less than N300.00.

In the case of tomatoes, a basket which sells for around N150.00 attracts levies which cumulatively leave the trader with barely anything as earning. 

Sources revealed that the leadership of the Tomatoes and Pepper Traders Association in Lessel Market had yesterday being the eve of the market day tried to negotiate a reduction in the number of imposed levies and rates with officials of the government tax agency, BIRS, with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for the area also involved in observatory capacity. 

But the tax officials had failed to compromise, thereby forcing the traders to take to the streets today at the start of market activities, burning tyres and blocking the state highway which runs through the area to Tse-Mker Junction, which links the major federal highway running from the North-East down to the South-South. 

The protests have involved the combined efforts of a number of traders and buyers association all with the same complaints of multiple and high taxation in the state.
Meanwhile, the state Governor, Samuel Ortom and head of BIRS, Mrs. Mimi Orubibi, are said to be at loggerheads over how much the tax agency has been generating since the inception of the current administration. 

While Gov. Ortom has been declaring a monthly IGR receipt of N500 million only, Mrs. Orubibi on the other hand is said have consistently maintained that the agency under her leadership is gathering in over N1 billion monthly. 

It is the contention by many in the state that the high and multiple taxes imposed by the Ortom administration on people and businesses in the state is not justifiable, particularly considering the poor performance of the administration which has failed to execute any project of significance in over a year. 

Gov. Ortom has since coming to office borrowed over N50 billion and received over N100 billion from monthly FAAC allocations and IGR, but has not been able to execute projects. 

His government is also owing over six months of workers salaries, while it has severally been rocked by massive corruption scandals, one of which was the ICPC report indicting it for squandering over N13 billion out of the N28.5 billion bailout loan collected last November to offset salary arrears owed workers.

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