The Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, has expressed intense displeasure with news that his administration has imposed a tax on individual loaves of bread to be paid by bakeries and bread sellers in the confluence state. Chief Edward Onoja, Governor Bello’s Deputy made this known in a statement by his office to the press, Saturday. The statement read apart; “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.
It insisted that such a claim was “…in fact, an embarrassment to the state government.” The Deputy Governor revealed that his boss directed him to personally debunk the news to underscore how serious government considered the disinformation. “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.” Onoja said he was himself shocked when news of the strange measure started doing the rounds on media platforms, saying that 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. The Kogi State number two citizen highlighted Governor Bello’s responses to issues impacting the welfare of his people during the pandemic as proof that such a tax runs counter to everything the administration stands for. “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 the 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.” Chief Onoja noted in his statement that though widely excoriated in those early days Governor Yahaya Bello remained undaunted because of his desire to protect his people at all costs. According to him, ” ..today, the result of my Governor’s novel approach to the novel coronavirus is 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.” Edward Onoja, a long time Bello confidant and loyalist, said that apart from his response to the disease itself, Governor Bello also made sure his government designed several homegrown post-Covid stimulus programmes to help different sections of the populace and wondered how the same governor can turn around to afflict the same people with an alleged tax on bread.
“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.” He, therefore, rejected the notion that “we can now impose a tax on individual loaves of bread sold in the state”. The Deputy Governor said that no extra financial burden will apply for the time being on citizens and assured that “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”. The statement also promised that the Kogi State Government will deal decisively with any person who tries to extort the public now the same way it dealt with those who tried to collect money from places of worship and residences for an “alleged official fumigation exercise” early in the covid cycle. Chief Edward Onoja, therefore, urged everyone to disregard the alleged bread tax as not only improbable but impossible in Kogi State under the current administration. He also reassured the media and the general public that those behind the rumours totally would be fished out and punished. “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,” the statement concluded.