Raymond Ozoji, Awka
“That school is at Nnobi and the man has been haunting me, writing all sorts of things about me. I closed it down because they got our girls pregnant. There is another school we closed down at Okija, the one initiating students into homosexuality. He was exploiting students, initiating them into homosexuality and we found shrines in his office.”
Those were the assertions of the Honourable Commissioner for Basic Education in Anambra state, Prof. Kate Azuka Omenugha, at an elaborate press conference held at the Revenue House Awka recently. There, she and the Chairman of the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, Dr. David Nzekwu, took time to debunk allegations of multiple taxation on private schools as well as exposed the exploitative tendencies students were subjected to in the hands of private school owners in the state.
Omenugha disclosed that she had received countless threat messages to her life because of her mission to recover and reposition schools in Anambra state since she became the Commissioner for Basic Education. She made it clear that the intent was not to clamp down or witch-hunt private schools but to ensure that every private school operating in the state met the minimum requirements. To this end, the commissioner swore that she had never exploited private school owners neither had the government of Chief Willie Obiano subjected them to unnecessary tutelage. She also noted that contrary to the allegations of multiple taxations as held by private school operators in a recent news briefing, payments were clearly defined and that governnent remittances were done through Pay Direct and not through any agent or persons posing as governnent tax collectors.
She said, “We have warned the private schools not to give money to anybody. Any money that they said the ministry collects is Pay Direct. It is not in my personal account. We have warned them severally but because some of them operate illegally especially the unapproved ones, they continue giving money to any person who claims to be governnent agent.”
The commissioner further disclosed that about 1,901 unapproved private schools were operating illegally in the state, stressing that the names of the illegal schools would be published in the dailies so that parents and guardians would be aware and withdraw their children from such schools. According to her, the blacklisted schools will not participate in the forthcoming West African Examination Council examinations.
The commissioner who discribed unrecognized private schools as miracle centres, alleged that a private school at Nnewi called Keep Looking To Jesus Comprehensive Secondary School, has an astronomical number of WAEC and SSCE students, inadequate statutory records, no principal’s office, poor ventilation in available classrooms, to mention a few of the anomalies in the school. She therefore stressed that the schools were better described as magic cum miracle centres. Omenugha said 12 private schools under the category of miracle centres include Higher Achievers Secondary School Uli, Starlight Secondary School Ogbunike, Bilingual Secondary School Abagana, Spencer Secondary School Uli, City High School Ozubulu, Dominion Comprehensive Secondary School Obosi, Keep Looking To Jesus Comprehensive Secondary School Nnewi, Azia Comprehensive Secondary School Azia, Summit Comprehensive College Obosi, Redemption Model Secondary School Awada, JonJay Comprehensive Secondary School Ihiala and Jubilee Secondary School Ihiala. She said that the aforementioned schools have been proscribed forthwith for unconventional and unethical practices.
She acused owners of the private schools of taking students to Edo, Abia and other states to register them for WAEC examinations at very exorbitant costs. She pointed fingers at a private school at Nnobi, Idemili-South local government area where the proprietor allegedly specialises in getting female students pregnant in an attempt for them to write their WAEC examinations at miracle centres outside Anambra state. The commissioner stated that any school that didn’t register its students for WAEC examinations in Anambra state would not be permitted to operate in the state.
Although a coalition of private school owners had announced the commencement of what they described as warning strike over an alleged multiple taxation as well as a host of other unfair treatments from the state government, Omenugha cleared the air, saying that private schools could not go on strike, that the trouble with them was divided loyalty. She said the bone of contention was what the private school owners perceived as multiple taxation. The last administration, according to her, gave buses to private schools while the Obiano administration gave computer sets as well as N1 million each to more than 200 private schools. Again, she disclosed that the Peter Obi administration gave private schools N2.5 million each for laboratory equipment but whether the money was used for the purpose it was meant for, was another story altogether. She said, “I believe sincerely that the government of Anambra state has spoilt private schools. They no longer want to give back to the state and many of them have blatantly refused and rejected re-accreditation because of the level of rot in their schools.”
On the issue of multiple taxation, Dr. David Nzekwu, the AIR boss, explained that every private school doing business in Anambra must effect three categories of registration viz business premises registration, registration in the ministry of education and registration at the internal revenue service respectively. He said that the refusal of private school owners to register with relevant governnent authorities was the subject of discord. He recalled that owners of private schools took the state revenue service and some other government organs to the state assembly where they alleged that they were subjected to multiple taxation. The AIR boss said they complained about withholding tax, ASWAMA charges and ANSAA charges, which he clarified but emphasized that it was rather unfortunate that private schools don’t pay taxes.
Nzekwu observed that there seems to be an ulterior motive behind the actions of some of the private school owners whom he said ganged up to exploit other proprietors. He however maintained that the state board of internal revenue would continue to enforce payment of taxes and levies in accordance with the provisions of tax laws to ensure that every private business and other taxable investments made their remittances to governnent coffers even though he also discovered that of all the private schools operating in Anambra state, only about 187 were duly registered with the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service.