Commercial drivers in the federal capital territory lament the unprofitability of their operations because of the existence of multiple levies and taxes
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Sep. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
UMAR Addo personifies the word workaholic. As a taxi driver in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, he is always on the move to either pick or drop passengers in various parts of the city. But like the proverbial ant that works all day without much to show, Addo has little or nothing to show for his daily toil on Abuja roads. He is frustrated because a huge share of his earnings goes into paying the multiple levies imposed on taxi drivers operating in the metropolis by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA.
“I leave my house very early in the morning with the hope that I can make enough to take care of my family. But the levies we are forced to pay take all the income. By the time you deduct what you spent on fuel, you are left with a miserable amount that is barely enough for you to feed let alone take care of your family.”
According to Addo, the transport business used to be very lucrative. But with the introduction of various levies in the city’s council areas, many people are no longer interested in the business. “We register with almost N7, 000, buy union sticker for N3, 000 and pay N1, 000 daily fee to Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, and transport union levies. But the moment you leave the area where you paid and drive into another area council, the officials will impound your vehicle and force you to buy their own tickets.”
Corroborating Addo’s claims, Fidelis Imoh, another taxi driver, said the levies imposed on them are “outrageous”. He added that some drivers refuse to take passengers to certain parts of the city because of the harassment they face from officials who force them to buy tickets.
Bernard Ene, another taxi driver lamented the imposition of multiple levies. He said the daily levy collected by AMAC and transport unions were supposed to permit the drivers to operate legally in all the area councils in Abuja. “This issue is very annoying. With the AMAC ticket and the one sold by the transport union, we are supposed to be able to work in any part of Abuja. But when these officials come, they harass you and force you to buy another ticket. At the end of the day, you have many tickets and little money to take home.” Ene called on the FCTA to urgently look into the matter because it one of the reasons why transportation is very expensive in the city. “People complain about the high cost of transportation in Abuja but they don’t know what we go through. If the FCTA looks into the matter urgently and resolves it, commuters will spend less on transportation and everyone would be happy.”
Reacting to the driver’s complaints, Lawrence Fadipe, Secretary of National Union of Road Transport Worker, NURTW, said the transport unions had not been collecting multiple levies from taxi drivers. Fadipe added that any transport union ticket from AMAC was enough for a driver to operate in all the area councils. Fadipe condemned the imposition of multiple levies, and also called on the FCTA to “look into the matter before it becomes too difficult to handle’’.
He also called for a unified levy process which would cover the drivers in all the six area councils. “There is no need to charge a driver the same levy that he has paid in AMAC once he enters Gwagwalada, Bwari, Kuje, Abaji and Kwali area councils. If a driver pays in one area council in a day, it is enough for him to operate in all the other area councils instead of multiplying the taxes and subjecting drivers to unnecessary pains.”
Collecting levies from taxi drivers and commercial bus operators in the territory is perhaps the most viable source of revenue for the area councils. An official at the Kwali area council who asked not be named, said because the councils are under-funded, they have to impose various levies on those doing business in their Areas.
“The allocation received by the area council is not enough to meet all its needs. So imposing levies on market women, taxi drivers, commercial bus operators and other people doing business in the area is one of the ways the council generates revenue. If they ask us to stop, then they must also be ready to increase our allocation”.
For the passengers, who are obviously at the short end of the stick, the high cost of transportation in the city is also affecting them. Haruna Isiaka, an immigration officer who lives in Nyanyan, said he spends lots of money on transportation to and fro his office in Lugbe. “I spend a lot on transportation here in Abuja. Taxis are very expensive and the buses provided by the government are not available.”