By Sam Otitolaiye
At Independence, Kaduna, otherwise known as the Crocodile City, emerged as the political hub of the North and rallying point of its political and business elites. It was from Kaduna that other states in the region were created.
Sadly, Kaduna has not attained its giant status in terms and take its place as nerve centre for commercial activities in the region against the potentials the state, and in fact, the city of Kaduna enjoyed considering the caliber of personalities and mass of the people that reside and congregate on it at all times.
Different administrations and governors, right from the regime of respected and non-conformist icon, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa in the Second Republic, to the present day leadership led by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, none have been able to decisively formulated economic policies that should stir up the commercial status of the state; rather, it has been a case of different stokes for different folks.
In the early 70s and 80s, Kaduna was at its peak, priding itself as the commercial and industrial hub of the north due to the preponderance of textile industries and allied companies that employed and attracted thousands of people to the state but this euphoria would soon diminish as the industries were poorly funded, some lacked the standard understanding of business practices seen through faulty memoranda of understanding among business owners. Instances of ethno-religious and political crises that engulfed the state at different times forced ventures to folded up for fear of vandalism and destruction of live.
Apart from Kaduna, its capital city, the other two major towns of Zaria to the north and Kafanchan to the south, there nothing significant to latch on to in these big towns regardless of their fame, in terms of commerce and industry.
While Zaria remains the epicenter of learning, boasting to host the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University and several research institutions, Kafanchan on the other hand has remained commercially dormant and unattractive commercially.
However, much as the new administration of El-Rufai is pursuing determined efforts to ease processes of establishing functional businesses and attract investments into the state, leveraging on the annual Kaduna Investment Summit – KadInvest stimulate economic growth, there are misgivings among majority the Kaduna people that the tax regime in the state is cumbersome, even at a time government is working to streamline it.
For instance, it is business owners are required to part with several fees alongside tax demands from Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and states which translates to multiple taxation with consequential unpleasant business operations therefore attracting high costs on business and products.
According to the policy, business owners must first obtain a business premises permit from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in order to operate within Kaduna State ahead of enlistment and then proceed to obtain the company incorporation certificate with the Corporate Affairs Commission. This procedure, although laudable is described by many to be tiresome and tedious.
For instance a business concern must fulfill the requirements of CAC registration, Tax Identification Number (TIN) and go through the business premises registration procedures but government has argued, that the procedure was necessary to standardize businesses in the state and confer the attestation of recognition by the state government and that it is aware and approves the location of a particular business.
In addition, registration fees vary based on location and size of business. Economic analysts have posited that apart from the cumbersome procedure, investors are scared by the array of fees and taxes they have to pay, even for small scale ventures.
What has blossomed in Kaduna State is commercial trading, most of which are either unregistered or are oblivious of the various forms of taxation in the state. Often, most traders and small business owners are seen in hostile arguments with tax officials or even engage in fisticuffs with tax officials to register their discomfort.
Analysts also feel that government’s stance had become unfriendly because of its aggressive tax drive without considering the harsh economic realities of the environment and dwindling business activities.
A commentator on the economic situation in Kaduna, Alhaji Mahmoon Baba Ahmed opines that the adoption of a liberal and inclusive economic agenda would augur well for the state and would magnetize a broad spectrum of the residents for a seamless business operations and attractive environment in Kaduna State.
Ahmed also stressed the need for Governor El-Rufai to empanel an effective economic team saying organizing annual investment conferences has brought little or no hope of economic revival in the state.
The state is obviously in need of collectivism and a working team that would work assiduously towards achieving the economic goals which is the only way to make Kaduna economically great again.