Private Schools Strike: Over 1000 schools operating illegally – Anambra govt
By O’star Eze
Over 1000 private secondary, primary and pre-primary schools in Anambra State have been operating illegally and may soon be proscribed, Anambra State government reveals.
This revelation came on the heels of the three day warning strike by Coalition of Private Schools in Anambra State who had been agitating against what they described as high, multiple and unfair taxation by the state government.
However, responding to the strike action, the state government, in a press briefing held Tuesday, at Revenue House, Awka, described the action as “uncalled for and disrespectful to a government which had been treating these private schools with kid gloves.”
The Anambra State Commissioner for Basic Education, Professor Kate Omenugha alleged that the leadership of Coalition of Private Schools do not have the best interest of their pupils at heart and charged parents of affected schools to ask for their money back for the three days their ward was not offered the educational service they paid for.
Prof Omenugha stated that the state government had been giving support to the private schools but that the private schools had continue to prevent the government from accessing their records or play their own role in development of education in the state. She alleged that they had rather been aiding and abetting tax evasion, examination malpractices and extortion of parents as well as sexual abuse of students.
The commissioner said that the state government had decided to close down schools that are found wanting while their pupils/students would be moved to credible schools. She added that while 10 schools have already been marked for close down, names of the other over 1000 schools found operating illegally would be published on the media and marked for total closure if they failed to make amends promptly.
“Among all the states in the country, Anambra State government has been the only government that gives support to private schools. During the past administration, some of these schools were given buses and money by the government and in this administration, we have shared computer sets to them as well as 1 million naira each to develop their sports equipment and sick bay. Most of these schools did not utilise the money they were given for the purposes.
“Yes, these private schools have been raising their voice against things they perceive as multiple taxation because they tell themselves they render social services. While the state government recognises that these schools render social service, we are also aware that they do businesses.
“The gains they make should be ploughed back in the development of the school. This is where I have problem with the private schools because most of them fail to develop their schools with the money they make and these schools remain the way they are year in year out.
“They have continued to hide their data from the government even when they are the greatest employers of labour. They have refused to allow us to grade their schools from star 1 to star 5 in order to know how to treat them fairly.
“Every worker is supposed to pay PAYE but they have refused to let us know how many teachers they have in order for us to know what they should be realising from their teachers for the government.
“We have also discovered that a lot these schools run miracle centres. We had wanted to run reaccreditation of the schools for WAEC and NECO examinations but they refused to comply.
“Obiano government wants credible and valuable education and that is why we have decided to clamp down on schools that have been running illegally (evading tax, without statutory records, running without government approval or marked by external examination boards as miracle centres).”
Responding to the claim by the Coalition of Private Schools in Anambra State that their buses are usually held with pupils jn them, the commissioner said that she had given instruction that any bus that has pupils in them should not be touched by the enforcement agents. She added that the state house of assembly has agreed to look into amending the law to give them 20 per cent discount for business premises charges.
On his part, the Chairman of Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue Service, Dr David Nzekwu citing from some documents, explained that what the striking group referred to as multiple taxation were levies, charges and tax. He stated that many of the private schools failed to register with the state authorities; business premises, ministry of education and board of internal revenue.
Dr Nzekwu said that when the group complained that they were being disturbed by illegal revenue collectors, he told them to pay into government account using their ANSSID number.
“But the leadership of the Coalition of Private Schools refused insisting that they would want to be collecting the money on behalf of the government and remitting to the government. This is the source of the crisis they are fomenting because we insisted they must register and pay to government account to avoid illegal revenue collection.”
“Every business in Anambra State is an agent of government for the purpose of deduction of PAYE taxes from salaries paid to their staff and they have an obligation to remit this to government within 10 days of deducting the money.
“Many of these people are not paying their taxes and do not have tax clearance certificate.
“When government provides services for people, government levies charges for these services like waste management. The ASWAMA law has prescribed that school are supposed to pay for waste management. When the schools put up sign posts to advertise their school, the ANSAA law says they are supposed to pay for signage. Where the school vehicle contravenes traffic law and are impounded, they are expected to pay a fee, that cannot be called multiple taxation,” Dr Nzekwu said.
He reaffirmed the board’s resolution to continue to ensure that every person in Anambra State complied with the tax provisions of the state according to the law.