Religious leaders among whom are leaders of Islamic, Christian and Traditional organisations have condemned the recently announced security levies imposed on places of worship in Oyo State.
PREMIUM TIMES recalls that the Oyo State government under the leadership of Governor Abiola Ajimobi had last week announced that it imposed security levies on religious organisations, manufacturing, trading and other business organisations in the state.
The levies were imposed by the state government to generate funds to assist security agencies maintain a crime free state.
The categories of the levies were contained in flyers made available to journalists at an emergency stakeholders meeting convened by the state government.
But, religious bodies in the state have opposed the new development since the announcement was made.
The Chief Missioner, Islamic Spiritual and Charitable Group of Nigeria, Olatunde Mumin, who said that one of the functions of the government was to ensure security of lives and property, said imposing annual levies on religious bodies will amount to double taxation.
He argued that members of various religious bodies are tax payers who would have discharged their civic responsibility in one form or the other to government, hence, “asking them to pay another tax through their religious houses becomes a double responsibility.”
He said that security of lives and property is the responsibility of government at all times as this is the only way citizens “can feel the existence of government.”
The Muslim Community of Apete, Awotan, Ayegun and environs in Ido Local Government Area of the state said the newly introduced security levies will amount to injustice.
Secretary of the community, Ahmad Olalere, in a statement made available to this newspaper on behalf of the community on Sunday added that the Muslims in the area reject the new levy.
Mr Olalere who said that the community will vehemently oppose the move, declared that such move will amount to injustice targeting religious bodies that are non-profit in nature like Islamic ones.
Also, Aladura Patriarch and Primate Spiritual Leader of Merciful Christ Church Inc. Olapade Agoro, said the idea of taxing religious bodies shoud be taken with caution because of its ability to raise tension, hate and acrimony beyond expectations.
Mr Agoro in a statement on Saturday called for calm and ‘well-researched reaction’ that must not be confrontational.
He added that the government on its part must be prepared to meet the people for discussion to avoid crises.
The gubernatorial candidate of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Abiodun Bamigboye, while reacting urged the Abiola Ajimobi administration not to transfer the burden of funding security agencies on poor people.
He argued that imposition of security levies is unconstitutional and “will unleash more hardships on the people”.
“The security of life and properties of citizen is the basic social responsibility of the government at all levels,” he said.
He argued that security agents in the state would have been more effective “if the huge proportion of the yearly budget often voted on security by the federal government and the security votes governors often allocate to themselves out of the funds at the disposal of the state had been used judiciously over time”.
“Placing yearly budgetary allocation on security and the security votes received by the state governor under a democratic control of elected representative of the working people and security agents would have guaranteed a better improvement in both the working and living condition of the security agents,” he said.
Also traditional religion adherents under the auspices of Traditional Religion Worshipers’ Association of Oyo State (TRWASSO), said they are strongly against the move to tax temples and priests.
TRWASSO General Secretary, Fayemi Fakayode, while speaking on behalf of his colleagues in the state argued that levying the temples or the priests “who are struggling to propagate the religion without moral and financial support directly and indirectly from the home government at any level is tantamount to sending the religion back to crawling stage.”
Mr Fakayode told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that taxing worship centres will make religious leaders derail from the teachings of their religion and godly assignment “which is to advocate for good character and refrain from social vices.”