Lagos records zero revenue from road taxes, ‘Agberos’ pocket N123bn

LAGOS State recorded zero revenue from road taxes in 2022. The taxes, estimated at N123 billion, were however pocketed by touts, popularly known as Agberos, Economy Post can authoritatively report.

The 2022 Internally Generated Revenue By States report released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that Nigeria’s richest state realised nothing from road taxes, even when not-so-buoyant Niger and Plateau made N408.8 million and N642.3 million respectively from the same source.

This reporter had carried out a data-driven investigation in 2021, which revealed that Lagos makes N123.078 billion from road/ transport taxes every year. The story, published by The ICIR, was entitled, “Money for the boys: How agberos pocket billions of Lagos transport revenue.”

It revealed that Lagos generates N82.1 billion annually from 75,000 commercial buses in the state while earning N32.9 billion from 50,000 tricycles within the same period.

The report showed that the state realises N8.1 billion from 37,000 motorcycles each year. Even with the ban on motorcycles, Lagos still earns more than N100 billion from taxes collected from commercial vehicles and tricycles in various local governments and local council development areas.

However, the money goes into private pockets of touts and hoodlums in the state, who provide zero accountability for the money while the state watches on+.

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The reporter had sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), Mr Hamzat Ayodele Subair, requesting details of transport revenue in Lagos between 2015 and 2019, but he did not reply.

Text and WhatsApp messages were sent to the Lagos State Commissioner of Finance, Mr Rabiu Olowo, asking him for relevant information on road and transport taxes, but he did not reply.Nurudeen Obe Street, Ejigbo, Lagos

Road and transport taxes were not found in Lagos State’s 2015-2022 financial statements examined by the reporter.

Mr Musiliu Akinsanya, fondly called MC Oluomo, heads a group that collects road taxes in Lagos. A wealthy man, Mr Akinsanya was recently appointed the acting Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Zone 2, South West Nigeria.Mr Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo

His twin children, Taiye and Kehinde, graduated from universities in the United States of America in 2021. Mr Akinsaya owns a giant building at Oke-Afa, Ejigbo, in Lagos.

Shining Lights

In spite of Lagos’s inability to take over the collection of road taxes, other states have taken charge of theirs.

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Edo State collected N1.413 billion in road taxes in 2022, while Delta earned N2.48 billion. Cross River got N3.26 billion from road taxes, whereas Zamfara brought N1.56 billion road tax into its coffers. Similarly, Ondo earned N1.82 billion while Ogun collected N1.82 billion.

Mid performers included: Imo (N974.51 million), Kano (N941.25 million), Kaduna (N833.68 million), Abia (N703.64 million), Oyo (N960.59 million), Kwara (N661.27 million), Osun (N445.24 million), Akwa Ibom (N471.20 million), and Rivers (N223.93 million).

But Nigeria’s richest state received nothing.

Agberos and Lagos infrastructure

Agberos collect billions of naira in road taxes, while Lagos’ road network remains broken in several parts of the state.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has dipped hands into state coffers to spend N1.62 trillion on infrastructure in four years, according to Economy Post‘s calculations.

At Ojo area of Lagos, roads are as bad as they are at Iyana-Ipaja. Passengers spend hours to get to their places of work or business due to the poor state of roads which makes traffic gridlock inevitable.

At Oshodi area of Lagos, roads are also as bad as they are at Ajegunle. A resident of Oshodi Local Government Area, Mr Chima Nduaguba, said the area made mockery of Sanwo-Olu’s infrastructure renewal claim.

“Lagos State infrastructure is wearing away by the day. Understandably, this is due to the population and high number of vehicles in the state. But the truth is that it does not look like the government has spent anything to improve several parts of the state,” he said.

A resident of Ajegunle, which is often regarded as a slum, Ms Ene Ibrima, said she sometimes spent double to go to work or return any time it rained in the state.

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“I often spend N2,600 each day, but once it rains I spend nearly double and remain in traffic for several hours. This is as a result of the poor state of roads in the state.”

What happens to Lagos’ touted reforms?

After the reporter’s story in 2021, the Lagos State government had announced reforms on its transport system.

The Lagos State Government announced that danfo, taxi, and other commercial vehicles would begin to pay N800 levy daily from February 1, 2022. This was meant to ensure that the state realised revenue from the system.

The Punch had quoted Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, Olowo, as saying that the N800 would be used to clear waste from motor parks by the Ministry of Transportation, Lagos State Waste Management Authority and Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency.

“The N800 is a single structured collection of the monies payable to all government agencies and parties who are directly or indirectly associated with the transport sector. What the government has done is to organise the collection and reduce the multiplicity of levies and all sorts of taxes, dues, and monies due to the government from the transport unions. Bus drivers will get tax cards, and the issue of arbitrary payments will be eradicated once they pay from the point of their loading each day,” Olowo had said.

Questions are being asked about the N800 road tax being collected by state government agencies.

A Lagos-based financial analyst, Mr Ken Kpopie, said part of the money should have reflected on the state government’s balance sheets.

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“Even if the N800 was to be used for cleaning the state, at least part of the money would have been available and reported by the state in its financials, Accountability is very important, and Lagos must begin to realise that it can make a lot of money in road tax by plugging the loopholes,” he said.

Make tax collections digital

Analysts have suggested that Lagos and other states must begin to rethink their strategies of revenue collections, citing digital process as one way of making them better.

A Lagos-based tech expert, Mr Daniel Ibrude, said digitisation of the whole process would bring in more revenue for the state.

“It is much easier to pay these taxes digitally or on various payment platforms. Once a driver pays, anybody on the revenue collection desk can easily see it and track those who have not paid. It is pretty easy, but we make everything look like a rocket science,” he said.

“Collection of cash by touts should not be continued in the 21st century. Except there is something different that you are trying to achieve, it makes no sense to allow touts to collect state funds in cash. There can never be accountability when this is done,” he said.

In an earlier interview, a former Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr Muda Yusuf, had urged the Lagos State government to move all transactions online or via the banks.

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