Table water producers threaten to leave Lagos State over multiple levies

Producers of table water in Lagos State are threatening to leave the state en masse for neigbouring Ogun and Oyo states if Lagos does not take steps to harmonise its tax collection system.

“Our members are poised to relocate to Ogun and Oyo. We have 2,600 members, with each employing at least 20 workers,” Clementina Ativie, president, Association of Table Water Producers of Nigeria (ATAWAP), Lagos State chapter, said in Lagos.

She said that the group has complained severely to the state government over multiplicity of taxes, rates, illegal levies, harassment of businesses by revenue officers, especially those from local governments, saying it would be to the mutual interest of all to harmonise the system as businesses were leaving Lagos for neighbouring states.

“We want to clearly know what to pay annually and to whom. Government should ensure that one central body collects the taxes in an orderly manner and we will prevail on some of our members who have left to return to Lagos. We have the market here,” Ativie said.

She said that its members were prepared to relocate en masse to Ogun State, which would cost Lagos N1bn in lost revenue.

According to a report by BD Sunday, one table water manufacturer said that 21 different tax and levy collectors came to his factory in one day to make unnecessary demands.

The multiplicity of tax collection has forced many businesses to consider moving to tax friendly Ogun State.

According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Ogun State reaped the rewards of maintaining a more tax friendly environment in 2015 when 71% of all manufacturing investments made in Nigeria went to Ogun. Similarly, in the first and second-half of 2016, Ogun State received 33% and 70% of all manufacturing investments in the country respectively, the highest among all zones.

The water producers in Lagos say that the agencies of the State Government involved in multiple levies collection include the Ministry of Environment, Lagos Water Regulatory Commission and Lagos Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA).

Ativie said that the revenue officials collecting the levies and taxes usually threatened to shut down factories of members, leading to off-the-books transactions, with the state government not receiving the revenue due.

However, the Lagos State Government appears to be heeding the warning. The State Ministry of Finance convened a meeting recently with stakeholders to harmonise taxes and levies collected by the different agencies.

“We are here to deliberate and fashion out a way of harmonising the taxes, levies and fees by all revenue generation agencies of government in the state and local government areas,” said Akinyemi Ashade, the state commissioner for finance at a recent tax forum organised by the ministry of finance.

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