By Zulaiha DANJUMA
This is the second and concluding part of a two-part series on corruption that has riddled transport tax collection in Kano state.
Read the first part here.
Selected Implementation of the KAROTA daily Keke ticket tax in Kano
When KAROTA and the then Ganduje government started the collection of daily ticket taxes from Keke riders, it was announced to cover the entire state, including metropolitan areas, towns, and villages. It was discovered that some major townships within Kano that have tricycle activities never paid the daily Keke tax of N120. Those towns include Dambatta and Gwarzo.
The Keke community in Dambatta never paid the Kano State Tricycle daily tax, which lasted for about three years. According to the Secretary of the Dambatta Tricycle Association called WASIAN, Mammam Abdu Danbatta, the Keke operatives in Dambatta town only pay N200 for newly registered Keke riders in the village and N50 association dues weekly.
“We our Keke riders only pay an association due of N50 weekly, this money is used to support each other in terms of any eventuality like accident matters that require the associations’ involvement,” he said.
“We collect N50 weekly per Keke because we are a small town, and we do not have many Keke riders [passengers] in the village,” he said.
According to Dambatta, when the Kano State government started collecting the N120 ticket tax in the Kano metropolis, the Keke operatives in Dambatta were very few, and it did not make sense to enforce the tax policy.
“We heard about the collection of N120 from Tricycles, but during the time that collection started, the Keke’s in Dambatta were about 10 in number,” he said.
It was gathered that the Keke Riders Association in Dambatta pays N1,000 tax yearly to the local government secretariat for being in operation as an association.
“We only pay N1000 to the council yearly for renewal of our association registration,” he explained.
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The story was not different at Gwarzo Local Government area. The Keke riders in Gwarzo attested to never paying the N120 KAROTA Kano state tricycle ticket tax.
However, the head of the Keke riders Group at Gwarzo, Hassan Abdullahi, said that the only time the personnel of the Kano State Road Traffic Agency (KAROTA) enforced any kind of payment on them was when they came into the town about a year ago to enforce a state government and KAROTA order of re-registration all tricycles in the state.
“When the KAROTA men came that time, they caught anyone who did not re-register his Keke; they enforced them to do so.”
“The money we paid at that time was N19,000 each per Keke,” he said.
On Monday, January 10, 2022, the Kano state government and KAROTA demanded for a new yearly registration fee that will permit the tricyclists to continue operations in Kano state.
New tricyclists registrants were charged N18,000, while renewal fees for already registered tricyclists was N8,000 per annum. The KAROTA agency had previously put the registration fee at 100,000 Naira before it was reduced to N20,000, then it was left at N18,000.
The new registrants would have a tracking device as part of their payment. This paper-like sticker, known as the tracker, was sighted pasted on the windshield of one of the Keke riders at Gwarzo village.
Kano Focus followed up to find out the reason some areas of Kano state were exempted from the compulsory daily Keke tax.
The KAROTA PRO Nabulisi Na’isa said the were understaffed and could not cover a wide range of areas, hence, the management limited the taxing exercise to inside major metropolitan areas in the state.
However, when the reporter enquired deeper into reasons the agency had not deployed its staff to LGAs to enforce the collection and payment of the tax as it did during the enforcement of the re-registration of the operational licence, he declined to provide any answer.
Interestingly, the Kano State government does not have a record of how much tax it collects from Keke riders in the state daily. Our reporter asked both KAROTA and KIRS for the data, but neither of them could provide it. KIRS said they did not have it and that all monies coming from KAROTA were cumulatively sent in, without a breakdown of which money was for Keke’s daily tax and which were for other road offence levies.
On the part of KAROTA, its officials declined any attempt to disclose figures. The KAROTA spokesperson kept saying all the funds were sent to KIRS.
However, it is easy to determine that the state government collects up to N6 million as Keke tax daily going by the number of riders in the state, which KAROTA gave as 60,000. Some Keke Riders Association leaders dispute this figure, saying it is certainly higher. But staying with the government figure, at N100 per day Keke tax collected, the government would make N180 million from this tax alone in a month and over N2 billion in a year.
Yet, this huge revenue source is not properly regulated and is largely in the hands of touts and other non-state actors.
Manual collection of tax does not aid government accountability
In a reaction to the issues of selective implementation of government taxes and manual collection of taxes, the Programmes Officer of Dispute Resolution and Development Initiative, the secretariat of the tax justice and governance platform for Kano State, Sadeeq Muhammad Mustapha, said there are several modes of payment structures that are made available by the Kano State KIRS as well as the local government revenue administration.
“The KIRS has a website that allows for payment of taxes; the site offers a gateway that allows for payment or the person who intends to make the payment may pay directly by going to the bank and generating an invoice for the payment process,” he said.
However, he added that there are some taxes for the informal sector that do not offer access to pay directly through the website or go directly to offices of KIRS to process payment.
“In such cases, there are certain provisions made by the KIRS to access those taxes,” he said.
Mustapha added that KIRS currently categorises daily wage earners into the informal sector category.
“With such earners, the personnel of the KIRS go directly to the markets to collect these taxes,” he stated.
He recommended that to simplify the process for everyone, the purchase of Keke tax tickets can be done based on daily, monthly, quarterly or even bi-annual basis, adding that “manual collection of taxes does not aid in accountability because it gives an opportunity for corruption, and it makes tax collection processes porous.”
“Manual collection of taxes does not give a measuring system that will help ascertain the amount being collected or remitted to the government as exact.”
“For example, when a revenue officer collects an approximate amount of N50,000, there is no exact way to ascertain if that N50,000 collected manually by that officer is what is remitted to the government.”
“That can easily cause corruption if a person is not upright that individual might remit much less than they actually collected, so manual collection of taxes and levy by the government doesn’t not aid accountability in the state at all,” he said.
He, however, said that to make tax collection and compliance easier, tax methods should be simplified for both the formal and informal sectors, which will increase voluntary tax compliance.
Mustapha also added that the recently adopted consolidation and codification law should be implemented effectively, and KIRS should be the sole administrator of taxes collected both at local government and state levels.
Keke riders speak
According to *Kabir, (38) , who hails from Gezawa LGA but operates his Keke business inside Kano metropolis, many Keke operators who live outside the city are harassed, extorted and delayed in carrying out their daily activities.
Kabir said for any Keke rivers coming from Bichi, Tokarawa or Gezawa where the tickets were not sold and was unable to meet any daily Keke tax vendors on his way before having an encounter KAROTA enforcers would be stopped and harassed.
“They would stop us and ask why we didn’t have a ticket; we would say we just entered the metropolis and haven’t bought the tickets yet. They will now tell us to either give them money as a bribe or they will take us to the KAROTA headquarters,”.
“Most of the time, to avoid going to the KAROTA head office where we might end up paying up to N10,000 as a fine, we will give the men on the road N500 or N,1000 and they’ll let us go,” he said.
He lamented when a Keke driver who lives farther away comes into the metropolis around 2.00pm, he would find it a little difficult to get a ticket vendor because, most likely, most of them would have finished selling their bundle for that day due to high demand.
Another Keke driver, Muazu Abubakar, a resident of Farawa area of Kano City, said a lot of Keke men were not as bothered with the daily N100 collection as the sale of a fake tracking device angered them.
According to Abubakar, the strike action in 2021 by the Keke riders was not really about the enforcement of the daily Keke tax but was an outburst of anger against the issuance in 2020 of paper stickers as tracking devices.
“We paid N19,500 each to get that tracking device; they told us that they will give us a tracking device that will be attached to our Keke. The supposed tracking device was meant to be able to secure our tricycles in case of theft so that the KAROTA agency will be able to track down the location of the Keke and retrieve it,” Abubakar recalled.
Alas!!! When it got to the time for the riders to get the tracking devices as promised, he said, “we were given paper stickers instead, which were pasted on the windshield of our tricycles.”
He stated that the sticker has no electronic device attached to it for it to be considered a tracking device that could locate the whereabouts of a stolen tricycle.
“That is to say, they tricked us, and that action greatly angered us,” he said.
Furthermore, Abubakar also said that aside from collecting 19,500 form Keke men as money for a tracking device in 2020, in 2021, they were compelled to pay a sum of N5,500 as Keke plate number renewal fee.
“The worst part was that we were not given enough time to run around to pay the money, we were given only a period of two days of grace to make the payment of the N5,500 for the Keke number renewal.”
“And anyone who did not pay within the two days they will have to pay N18,500.”
“It is unfair, how would they triple the fees, someone may not even have the N5,000, talk more of N18,500” he said.
A calculation by the reporter of the N19,500 paid as tracker fees by each of the 60,000 registered Keke in the state stood at a figure of 1,170,000,000 (One billion one hundred and seventy million Naira).
KAROTA’S alleged Tracking Machine — is a solar street lamp
It has been almost four years since the alleged issuance of fake tracker devices to Keke riders by then Baffa Babba-led KAROTA.
Aside the infamous court cases between Keke riders and Dan-Agundi, there has not been any specific inquiry into the alleged fake tracking device issued to Keke riders in Kano.
In interviews with the Head of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), at the Kano State Road Traffic Agency (KAROTA), Abubakar Aminu Mamade, and Na’isa, the reporter was informed that the paper-like sticker on the windshield of Keke riders was really a tracking device.
Mamade said the agency was able to track the locations of the Keke riders through the barcode on the paper sticker through a tracking sensor machine installed across the state.
“We installed the tracking machine in 50 areas within the state,” he said.
According to Mamade the locations of the machine were not previously made public because the agency did not want to tip off the public, who may sabotage the agency’s effort to apprehend those who steal tricycles in the state.
Mamade listed the following locations as the places where the tracking machines were installed: Government house by state road, Hadeje road roundabout, Dakata Bus stop, Hadeje Road by Ahmadu Bello road roundabout, Kano Club roundabout, Aminu Dantata bridge by Yan Kura junction, Aminu Dantata bridge by Igbo road, Kafor Nasarawa bridge, Kwanar Tudun Wada, Brigade, Zaria road by Ring, Madobi road bridge, Kofar Fanfo by BUK road, Kabuga bridge, Sarkin Yaki road by court sabon gari, Tijjani hashim bridge, Kadan Kofar ruwa, kwanar Ungoggo, Mill Tara roundabout, Kwanar Jaba junction, Kankare market Gwarzo road, Badawa bus stop, Taludu roundabout, Gadan kaya, Kankara junction opposite gwaran dutse, Gwammaja by Munbaiya house junction, NNPC meger station maiduguri road, Baban Gwari roundabout Katsina road, Hajjo camp roundabout, Katsina road by hajj camp junction, Katsina road by France road, Triphon roundabout, Kofar mazugal, Airport road by Kwanar Jaba, Hamadiya junction, Kings guardian junction, club road by independence road roundabout, Airport road by murtala Muhammad way, Bank road roundabout, Grand central hotel roundabout, Lorge road by Alu avenue, Sabobaki zuhu road by maiduguri road, Kofar Dan Agundi, Zoo Road by Gidan Buhari, Ibrahim Taiwo road by IBB way junction, kwari junction by IBB way, Ibrahim Taiwo road by Bello road roundabout, Igbo road by France road sabon gari, Airport road by new road junction sabon gari, Sabonbaki zuhu by lamido crescent, Court road by teaching hospital road, Ring road by Gwarzo road.
However, Kano Focus gathered through a quick Google search that the alleged tracking machines said to be installed across the 50 locations were in fact, solar street light lamps and not tracking devices.
The Google search was conducted with pictures given to the reporter by the head of ICT in KAROTA and purported to be snapshots from the field while the installation of tracker machines was carried out.
When confronted with our findings, Mamade said the tracking machines could be mistaken for solar street light lamp.
But when further enquiry was made with Google search image on the same images obtained from Mamade, it was said to be a stand-alone module streetlamp. Further searches were made to ascertain if the device could double as a secret tracking device, as the KAROTA management alleged. The Google search remained the same, still indicating that the images were solar street light lamps and not tracker machines.
The reporter then visited a few of the alleged locations of the tracking machine was said to be mounted at State Road, Kofar Dan Agundi, Zoo Road by Gidan Buhari and Gadan kaya. The solar streetlamp at State Road stands close to the Kano state Government House. However, it is the same lamp obtained from the picture gotten from the head of ICT at KAROTA which was searched and identified as simply a solar street lamp.
At Kofar Dan Agundi, there was not street light mounted directly by the ‘Kofa’ ancient gate. But along the major road crossing from Gangun Albassa to Titin Dan Agundi the same solar street light was mounted beneath a street lamp pole. While at Gadan Kaya, the reporter did not find any street lamp resembling the one obtained from the Head of ICT at the KAROTA.
However, at Zoo Road by Gidan Buhari the same solar street lamp purported to be a tracking machine by the KAROTA was sighted on the middle of the main road by Gidan Buhari. It was also solar street light.
In existence, though are smart street lights which are GPS-based. These streetlights are regarded as smart streetlights; with their built-in technology, they can locate the streetlights in case they get stolen. This is due to the sensor system they possess.
Where does KAROTA daily N6 million generated keke tax go?
According to the released 2022 figures and reconfirmed by Na’isa, there are 60,000 registered tricycles in the metropolitan area of Kano.
A quick calculation of the number of 60,000 registered tricycles multiplied by the daily collection of N100 equals N6 million daily. In a month, the figure stands at N180 million and N2.6 billion annually. Thus, the amount generated by Kano state from Keke tax between 2021 and 2023 is about N7.8 billion. But officials of the government could not really say exactly what all the money was used for.
The KAROTA agency had always claimed that the funds generated from the daily Keke taxing were used for road maintenance, among other road-related issues in Kano state. However, not one concrte mention of the funds obtained has been linked to any road maintenance in the state.
In view of this, Kano Focus got in touch with the Kano State Road Maintenance Agency (KARMA) through the media aide to the Managing Director Kano State Road Maintenance Agency (KARMA), Jabir Mukhtar Salisu.
After enquiring from the MD of KARMA, Hassan Danbaffa, about the claims made by the KAROTA, Salisu said that the then management of the transport agency gave KARMA some funds to repair damaged roads in the state.
However, the funds were not said to have come from revenue gotten from the daily Keke tax collection, rather the agreement entered was said to be on all funds gotten from KAROTA’s monetary penalty on-road use offenders in the state.
“The then KAROTA management had written to the Former Governor, seeking to start the collection of monetary penalties on vehicles found wanting for road and traffic-related offences in the state.”
“The government approved this request, and also directed KAROTA to give the funds generated from such operations to KARMA to fill up potholes on roads in the state.”
Salisu said the project was carried out in three (3) batches. The first batch of the refilling of potholes was in 2021.
According to the Maintenance of Selected Rotary Intersection, U-Turn and Cross Junction within Metropolis document obtained from the Kano State Road Maintenance Agency (KARMA), the reporter was able to obtain that the roads which had refilling and patching of potholes were Katsina road, Sani Marshall/Independence way, Sani Abacha way/Independence way by Eldorado cross junction, Muhammadu Buhari way by Kansakali (Yan rake) and a few intersections and cross junctions along Aminu Kano way
A sum of N18,782,892.72 was given for the first batch of the repairs.
However, the reporter was unable to obtain such collaborative documents for the remaining two batches of alleged pothole repairs as the agency did not want to release any of the documents to the public.
The reporter obtained the first document only through picture shots taken at the agency on sighting the document.
In the same vein, in the interview with the Director, Government Business at the KIRS, Sammani Ibrahim, he confirmed that shortly after the Service discontinued direct involvement in the collection of the daily Keke tax, the then KAROTA under the management of Baffa Babba Dan Agundi and the state government approved for KAROTA to handover the revenue generated from the daily Keke taxing to the Kano state Road Maintenance Agency (KARMA)
“I can recall then that there was an approval by his Excellency Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje that whatever amount generated from the daily taxing of Keke riders to be given directly to KARMA for road repairs of roads,” he said.
However, KARMA never confirmed that the money KAROTA gave them for filling and patching potholes came from the daily Keke tax collection, they rather made emphasis that the funds were from all funds gotten through monetary penalties on road and traffic offences.
The Director Government Business Ibrahim also confirmed to Kano Focus that the KAROTA pay all agency generated revenue cumulatively into the Kano State Single Treasury Account
“KAROTA has numerous revenue items that generate funds from vehicle riders in the state, if a vehicle breaks traffic law, they collect a fine, if a vehicle rides with lenses or commit any road offence they collect a fine.”
“They cumulate all these various funds as one and deposit it into the bank, they do not specify that a certain fund is for daily Keke tax collection or traffic offence fine” he said.
Mr. Ibrahim said the KAROTA sends the funds they generate to the bank, and they call and also send a written correspondence attached with the teller stating the amount of money they deposit into the Kano State Single Treasury Account
Mr. Ibrahim added that only the KAROTA could provide specifics on the amount they generate from the daily Keke ticket tax process.
However, the KAROTA were unable to provide any information regarding the money generated from the daily Keke ticket tax collect as the KAROTA PRO Nabulisi kept referring the reporter to the Kano State Internal Revenue Service.
Reintroduction of daily Keke taxing by Abba Kabir Yusuf Government a Hoax
In September 2023, Na’isa released a press release that the present government would soon begin the collection of daily taxes from Keke riders, as well as enforcement of re-registration payment on the tricyclists.
But Kano Focus sources assure that the present government has no plans to carry out the reintroduction of the daily Keke tax or any other form of Keke levy. According to an inside source at the KAROTA, the PRO was being overzealous in making the announcement.
“The declaration was indeed made, but the PRO wasn’t given approval to make the statement public when he did,” the source said. I can tell you that the press release by Nabulisi nearly caused his job,” the insider said.
Kano Focus reached out to Na’isa on his statement, and he said the only thing he could say “is that there is no plan yet on reintroducing the daily taxing.”
Kano Focus dug deeper to enquire into why the government hasn’t said anything regarding the reintroduction of the daily tax since a press release was made public on the matter, but he declined to answer any further questions on the matter.
*This report republished from Kano Focus was done with Support from the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR.