Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has expressed displeasure with news that his administration has imposed a tax on loaves of bread to be paid by bakeries and bread sellers in the state.
The governor described the story which was woven around a letter signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Industry, Mr. Usman Ibrahim issued to the bakery association as a ‘a huge embarrassment’ to the state government.
The state deputy Governor, Edward Onoja, who spoke on behalf of government in a statement on Sunday said the governor has asked him not only to speak on the issue but commence immediate investigation into the case.
The statement reads, “We have just seen a purported consultancy agreement between one of our ministries and a private firm to impose an ill-conceived levy on bread in the state. For the records, neither the Governor nor the state executive council has imagined or proposed such a devilish tax regime, how much less imposing same on any food or essential commodity, not to mention bread which is a table staple and the basic lifeline of many a household.
“Such a claim was infact, an embarrassment to the state government. I am directed by His Excellency to give the lie to news of an alleged tax imposed on each loaf of bread to be sold in Kogi State. There is no iota of truth in the claims that we have approved such wickedness, because we have not and cannot.
“I myself was shocked when news of the strange measure started making the rounds on media platforms it ran contrary to the widely advertised posture of the state government that the people of Kogi State must not be subjected to any act or policy that will increase their pains in this Covid-19 season.
“It is well-documented in the media that Governor Yahaya Bello has fought powerful forces, more than any other governor perhaps, to keep his people safe. As Covid-19 ravaged the country and the world, he has mobilised them for lifestyle changes that defeated the virus in the state.
“He spared them lockdowns and the inherent disruptions to their lives and livelihoods characteristic of covid responses in other places. He scrupulously obeyed WHO and NCDC guidelines to provide testing to high risk individuals. He relied on pioneering use of Rapid Test Kits for the coronavirus long before they became mainstream. He responded swiftly with contact tracing and quarantines on all suspected cases’.
“Today, the result of the Governor’s novel approach to the novel coronavirus are evident for all to see on every daily update given by the federal authorities. Kogi State sits at the bottom of that list, and even those 5 cases allocated to us are controversial at best. To put it mildly, we have had no confirmed case of Covid-19 in Kogi State.
“About 3 months ago, we rolled out the Kogi Care Initiative, for which Council approved N1.56 billion as a post-COVID economic stimulus and recovery programme customised for different sections of our people – the poor, the elderly and the MSMEs. We therefore reject the notion that ‘we can now impose a tax on individual loaves of bread sold in the state.’
“No extra financial burden will apply for the time being on citizens. Any business which has met the regulatory requirements for doing business in Kogi State including payment of routine tax is entitled to operate freely, and that includes bakeries and bread traders.
“We therefore urge everyone to disregard the alleged bread tax as not only improbable but impossible in Kogi State under the current administration.
“We will not tolerate our own officials trying to profiteer off our people in any way, or even acting ill-advisedly in manners that cause them any form of distress”.