THE Kogi State Government trended in the social media recently when reports had it that Governor Yahaya Bello had imposed levies on every loaf of bread baked in the state.
Many comments derided the governor, wondering if this was his own idea of “thinking out of the box” to shore up the state’s internally generated revenue.
In apparent show of defiant affirmation and justification of the policy measure, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo, issued a statement, saying that the policy was “not new”.
He said the government took the decision “to protect indigenous bakers”.
The statement was unable to show how the levy could protect local bakers when, in fact, it stood them in the risk of being priced out of the market by bread and confectioneries brought from outside the state.
The state government apparently made a sudden volte-face on Wednesday, November 11, when the Permanent Secretary in the state’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Usman Ibrahim, was queried for allegedly issuing the memo to Kogi bakers and caterers imposing the levy to be collected by Musag Enterprises.
The query issued by the Head of Civil Service, Deborah Ogunmola, declared: “For the records, neither the Governor nor the State Executive Council (sic) has imagined or proposed such a devilish tax regime, (sic) how much less imposing same on any food or essential commodity, not to mention bread which is a stable staple and the basic lifeline of many a household”.
Reports also have it that the Permanent Secretary has denied issuing the directive to levy loaves of bread, thus deepening the mystery over its source.
What exactly was the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Fanwo, defending?
We call on Governor Bello to come clean on this matter and personally state exactly what the position of his government is.
If he has decided (wisely) to backtrack from an ill-advised policy, let him be bold enough to say so.
No one is above mistake, and no one is too big to retract a step in the wrong direction. The only way forward is for the state government to issue a statement nullifying the directive and cancelling these obnoxious levies on loaves of bread.
With people still struggling to cope with challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that governments should be compassionate and people-centred in easing taxes on bread and confectionery makers.
This is not the time to put bread out of the reach of the ordinary people.
Even in more advanced countries, careless tampering on the cost of bread often leads to upheavals that could topple governments. Kogi State Government, please drop this idea!