Last night, few minutes before my usual bedtime, I got a telephone call from a highly respected Akwa Ibom indigene residence in the United States of America. At the end of our conversation, I wished the call never sailed through to me.
It was on the ‘Real Property Charge Bill, 2016.’
The Bill is being sponsored by the lawmaker representing Ibeno/Esit Eket state constituency in the sixth House of Assembly, Mr Usoro Akpanusoh. It was the telephone conversation that informed me of the existence of such a ‘satanic’ and anti-people’s Bill on the floor of the Assembly, which has passed through second reading and committed to committee stage, because it was handled in top secrecy by those behind it. This, to me is an evil act likened to the practice of witchcraft against the very people the lawmakers ought to represent and make good laws to better their lives.
I have applied and obtained a hard copy of this ‘evil’ Bill. I will serialise the contents in the media including this platform for all Nigerians nay, Akwa Ibom people to read and understand the mischief in the Bill with the titled; “A Bill for a Law to make provision for the imposition of land based charged, to be called Real Property Charge, for the levying and collection of the charge and for connected purpose.”
Section 2(1) of the Bill read: Property liable to charge; “The charge shall be payable on ALL property, except- (a) Property owned and occupied by a religious body and used exclusively for public worships or religious education. (b) Cemeteries and burial grounds. (c) A recognised and registered institution or educational institute certified by the Commissioner for Finance to be non-profit making. (d) Property used as public library. (e) Any property specifically exempted by the Governor of the State by notice published in the State Government Official Gazette”.
The Bill if pass into law will bewitch the already meager resources of Akwa Ibom people, in this time of economic recession. Our lawmakers, I think, should instead spare a thought in making good laws that will encourage an average Akwa Ibom man to own personal property.
By the Bill, anyone that owns any type of property in any part of the state including our rural communities, creeks and villages save as listed in Section 2(1) of the Bill hereabove, shall be taxed accordingly. My Pastor calls it the spirit of witchcraft, if you think otherwise, what then do you call it? On my part, I agree with my Pastor, because witches hate progress of the people; and this Bill is against the progress of the people.
Like I said in my opening paragraph, I wished that call did not sail through. Because it brought me nightmares. It made me woke up this morning from the wrong side of the bed, thinking why should the lawmakers embark on such an act that will leave the people poorer than they are? Is it because almost all the lawmakers have their landed properties and investments (i.e.; filling stations and hotels) outside the state?
I think something must be wrong somewhere. I cannot imagine the representatives of the people staking their names to champion an unpopular Bill which ideally, should be an Executive Bill that meets the stiff resistance of the lawmakers.
While I commend the Lawmaker representing Ibesikpo Asutan in the sixth Assembly, Mr Aniekan Uko, for opposing the satanic Bill, I register my disapproval of this anti-people’s Bill and call on all Akwa Ibomites, home and abroad, to wake up and say no to this Bill!
Let your voice be heard now!
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator