The Delta State Commissioner for Transport Mr. Vincent Uduaghan has urged all boat owners and operators plying the Delta state waterways and making use of its boats and over 100 of its jetties to ensure the payment of marine boat tax as imposed by the state government.
Uduaghan made the call to dispel rumours and news-making around the state that the collection of these taxes by the government through its various agents is illegal. Speaking through a telephone conversation from his office in Asaba, the Delta state capital, the transport commissioner insisted that the taxes are legal and official.
Uduaghan revealed that the state government has invested heavily in the provision and strengthening of maritime infrastructure in the state by the building of jetties and the buying of new boats across the state to ease transport difficulties.
The state government according to him has between 2013-2017 spent over N9.1 billion in providing these assets, he wondered therefore why the beneficiaries of these assets are refusing to perform their civic obligations by paying taxes to the government so that the assets and infrastructure would be maintained and sustained.
The transport commissioner further explains that the state government actually enacted a law to regulate the operation of boat operators in the state through the Registration/Regulation of Deep Canoe/ Local Boat law of Delta State.
Strengthened by this law the state ministry of transport under the present commissioner set up an enforcement and compliance team to collect marine tax levies from marine boat users including bigger boats and vessels in the state.
Through the operations of the compliance team, the state got to know that it was being defrauded on a daily basis of millions of naira through the fraudulent activities of touts and the illegal union who were purporting to be collecting revenue for the state but in reality were keeping it for themselves.
At a close count, such monies amounted to several millions of naira in revenue loss to the state. It was revealed for an instance by the compliance team that over N61 million naira was fraudulently collected from various boats and vessels operators as Delta state marine tax whereas such taxes was not then authorized.
The compliance team also discovered that the boat operators were not operating with a manifest and there was nothing to regulate and monitor their activities across the state waterways daily. The team, therefore, had to prepare an automated manifest with a charge of N500 per each boat.
Uduaghan, therefore, debunk the notion that the state government was involved in illegal and excessive tax collection from the boat operators ranging from N500-N1500 per boat and charging each passenger N50 as claim in some quarters.
The commissioner revealed that the Delta state marine tax implementation policy has received the blessing of the Delta state district of the maritime union workers in the state and that its implementation has come to stay.