* Assembly steps in as MDAs, groups violate harmonization done by RIRS
By Codratus Godson
The Rivers State government through the Revenue Board tried over the months to sanitise the transport sub-sector in the state through the harmonization of taxes and levies so that operators would pay at one point to operate anywhere in the state, once a day. The euphoria which followed this initiative seemed to be short-lived as some other government agencies and unions continued to issue their own tickets.
This started to brew some crisis and outcry until the Rivers State House of Assembly stepped in and on Monday and issued a directive stopping all other ticket sales except the daily unified tickets by the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS). Many industry operators hailed the order and hoped that this would restore order and compliance in the state.
The Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA) has intervened in the crisis brewing on the streets and motor parks in Rivers State following multiple tickets issued by different authorities to transporters and taxi operators.
Operators cried out that instead of the Rivers State Unified Ticketing System of N300 per day, other tickets have emerged and old tickets have persisted, making a driver to buy up to N1000 tickets every day.
The Rivers State House of Assembly Committee on Transport has thus directed transporters in the state to only buy the harmonized daily ticket issued by the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) to operate anywhere in the state. The ticket allows a buyer to load and drop anywhere in the state instead of the ugly practice where drivers buy tickets at every motor park anywhere in the state.
The chairman of the committee, Hon Mgbor Pikolo, made the declaration at a multi-stakeholder meeting on the floor of the Assembly after the Commissioner of Transport, Hon Sunny Ejeku, had admitted that his ministry was selling tickets to motorists also; whereas the RIRS executive chairman, Mr Adoage Norteh, had stated at the meeting that such taxes were what the Board has already harmonized in the state.
The Rivers State Government through the RIRS had held several stakeholder meetings in the transport sector last year after which the state came out with the unified ticketing system expected to represent the interest of every government agency. An operator thus needs to buy just one ticket per day and operate anywhere in the state. Now, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) has issued ist own MOT Ticket sold to drivers. This brought crisis which the parliament is striving to control.
The chairman of the committee ordered that all other tickets should stop until determination of all pending issues and claims.
The meeting was called in reaction to complaints against multiple tickets still being sold after the RIRS had come up with the unified ticketing system after several stakeholder meetings in the state.
Some unions, local council officials, community development committees and some other individuals have been extorting transport operators with different levies and daily fees. A source in government wondered how business operators would feel comfortable in Port Harcourt with all manner of revenue collectors breathing down the necks of transporters.
Others said these wild charges have made traveling to Port Harcourt very expensive thus making business very difficult in Rivers State whereas the Gov Nyesom Wike administration has continued to demand for ease of doing business and friendly revenue collection system.
The RIRS says it has been working hard to ensure that the governor’s directives and objectives were realized by creating a friendly tax environment through clearly defined taxes and payment structures despite the need to increase internally generated revenue (IGR) in Rivers State.
This must be the reason the Rivers State House of Assembly has intervened.