I was driving our bus (bearing the Twim Academy logo) a couple of weeks ago and was stopped by some government-appointed revenue officers. They requested for my papers, fully knowing that my documents were valid and complete. I gave them copies.
So, I was surprised when they told me, “Oga, your papers are not complete. Where is your emission test certificate?”
Before I could express my surprise at what an “emission test certificate” could possibly be, these officers had listed 5 more certificates that I didn’t have. The most ridiculous was a “waste basket certificate”. Yes! You read right. They did not ask to see a waste basket. They wanted a “waste basket certificate!” After reading this list, they declared that I had to pay N10,000 (USD$50) for those papers which would be issued on the spot. They had no equipment to test for emission (didn’t even know what it meant) but would issue a certificate, anyway. They would also give me a waste basket certificate even if I had no basket.
I was infuriated! I told them in no uncertain terms that I was not going to part with a dime.
Then a VIO officer came along (apparently, the state government instructed VIO officers to stay with these touts to ensure compliance with their laws). The VIO guy deceptively seized my driver’s license and declared that I had to come over to their office.By this time I was livid. Fortunately, I was able to make a number of phone calls and I left them without paying a dime. But they had wasted crucial hours of my day.
Yesterday morning, in a different incident, a number of people came over to my office from the Internal Revenue office to ask for my tax statements. Luckily for them, I was in a good mood. I told them I had valid statements and clearance certificates for the past 3 years. The leader among them tried to confuse me into paying some unnecessary fees. She didn’t know that I was pretty familiar with tax laws and couldn’t be fooled. She then later admitted that the government had sent them out (as well as the touts I met the other day) to “generate revenue by whatever means necessary”. I wanted to ask her if she was aware that there had been almost no power for two weeks and we had to run on the generator to a point that the generator failed every other hour. I wanted to tell her that when I finally got a new generator, it was almost impossible to get fuel for it because of the fuel scarcity that was biting a nation blessed with crude oil.
I wanted to ask that lady if she realized that the roads to my house (and office) were very bad. As a matter of fact, every single day, I drive on a road which has literally been eroded in half. If you drive at night and are unfamiliar with the road, you may just plunge into a ditch. That road has been like that for at least one year. I wanted to ask her for a single point of relevance the government has had for me – a young Nigerian entrepreneur who is an employer of labour – besides billing me all sorts of stupid fees. What has the government done for me since I started running my business?
When I was robbed, the police demanded money from me to fuel their vehicle before they could carry out investigations (which led nowhere by the way). When a thief (most likely the same robber) was caught by the community, the police insisted the community had to pay his medical bills, pay for fuel for their vehicle and pay to have them place him in court. Even now, policemen stop my students and extort money from them for carrying laptops without valid receipts.
I am a law-abiding citizen. I believe in paying taxes and living in a country where things work. I know that taxation is not a bad thing.
But I also know that only a government that is intellectually bereft of ideas will resort to asking citizens to pay for waste basket certificates in the name of revenue generation. Oh, they have never stopped you? That’s probably because you drive a car, not a bus. Don’t worry, if we all keep quiet (like Nigerians are good at doing), it will soon apply to cars as well.
I am hugely disappointed with my government at all levels but I am even more disappointed with Nigerian youth. I think we are the very reason why Nigeria continues to wander in the wilderness and can’t find the way to the promised land.
Every time I mention the failings of a government, I see Nigerian youth who are quick to excuse such failings not for any valid reason, but because their preferred candidate is in power. If I criticize President Buhari for example, they quickly compare him to Jonathan and claim I must be a PDP supporter. Alternatively, we form opinions based on religion or tribe.
The same young people do not realize that they are not represented in this government at all. They do not realize that a staggering number of them are unemployed while government officials fixes their own children in the few lucrative job openings available (such as the secret CBN recruitment). It’s okay to support a government but we don’t have to be blind! We have to help the ones who are performing to perform better by criticizing them constructively and demanding results!
Most importantly, we often ignore the real issues. We do not ask questions like, “What’s the economic blueprint we are working with as a nation?” or “What’s the way forward?”.
My parents have told me about how Nigeria was the pride of Africa and the land of opportunity in their days. I do not want my children to grow to know the Nigeria I have known – where policemen stand in the streets in broad daylight, collect bribes and nobody sees it as a big deal. I don’t want my children to be a government onto themselves and supply their own power, security and roads. I want them to see a Nigeria we can all be proud of. And, I want them to know that their dad was one of the people who made that happen.
So I am not keeping quiet.
Article by Olumide Adeleye
Photos by Yetunde Dada