Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on Wednesday asked voters not to support the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Jimi Agbaje, saying he has been evading paying tax on his businesses in the last four year.
The governor, who spoke at the 8th Annual Stakeholder Taxation Conference in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, said the PDP governorship candidate’s pharmaceutical company was a serial tax evader for neglecting to pay Land Use Charge, LUC, tax to the state government since 2009.
“LUC ground rent and tenement rate are consolidated taxation under the Lagos State government taxation laws on properties and business premises,” the governor said.
According to Mr. Fashola, since the bulk of the revenue used in the execution of the different development projects that have made the state one of the leading states come from tax, Mr. Agbaje, as an alleged tax evader, was not credible to govern the state.
The governor alleged that Mr. Agbaje, who owned a pharmacy called Jaykay Pharmacy, located at 9, Randle Close, Apapa has not paid land Use charge for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Although the governor said the Pharmacy had paid the tax for 2013 and 2014, he said it was because of the forthcoming 2015 election purposes.
“His pharmacy owes this state (Lagos) N1, 629, 064.62,” the governor said, adding that this amount would be enough to provide facilities in hospitals and stationary in schools in the state.
“This is the same person who was complaining that the state government spent three percent of its budget on education. Local Government is responsible for the management of the primary schools, yet he has withheld their taxes. This is the man who wants to be your next governor. And I will advice you that you avoid deception and tax evader,” Mr. Fashola said.
Urging the people to be cautious in their choices during the forthcoming elections, the governor said they should use their votes wisely by looking for a credible candidate that would be his successor in office.
On the issue of tax administration, the governor said the challenges associated with that role were global and not peculiar to Lagos state alone.
The reduction in the number of residents prosecuted for tax evasion, he pointed out, was an indication that residents were now more tax compliant.
He attributed this to the benefits of the public enlightenment campaign embarked upon in the last seven years to educate the people on this responsibility.
Emphasizing the importance of tax in development, Mr. Fashola said it was illegal for citizens not to pay tax to government, pointing out that no responsible politician seeking public office would ask their supporters not to pay tax.
Rather than encourage citizens not to pay tax at all, the governor said Mr. Agbaje should be concerned about how to make tax administration effective and ensure that residents get value for their taxes.
For critics of the tax regime in the state, the governor said they have no reason to complain that the state government was imposing more taxes on the residents, as the various tax laws were enacted by them.
“Where we were years ago was where the central government had chosen to start. The payment of tax is the first principle of the social contracts between the government and the citizens. It is an irreducible legal minimum of citizenship and a breach of this responsibility is a criminal offence under our law,” he said.
Describing the non-payment of taxes as illegal, the governor said those in support of such act were guilty of contravening the provisions of section 24(f) of the 1999 constitution, which states that “it shall be the duty of every citizen to declare his income to the appropriate and lawful agency; and pay it promptly.”
“All those who have paid their taxes have shown that they are lawful citizens. And anyone who has failed to pay tax is a bad citizen and a cheat. How can such a person benefit from the commonwealth services – the roads, hospitals and other facilities provided with funds generated from taxes paid by the residents,” the governor stated.
But, the Director, Media and Publicity, Jimi Agbaje Campaign Organisation, Felix Oboagwina, vehemently denied the allegations against the PDP candidate, accusing the governor of playing politics with the issue.
According to Mr. Oboagwina, although Mr. Agbaje founded Jaykay Pharmaceuticals, it was wrong for him to be held liable for any tax-related issue involving the company, as he was no longer in charge of the business.
“Mr. Agbaje left the directorship of Jaykay Pharmaceuticals in 2006. It is on record with the state that he is no longer involved in the day to day running of the company. As of today, he is not even an Executive Director,” he said.