By NBF News

Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) has urged Cross River State government to evolve a tax policy that will encourage each of the political parties contesting the August 2010 council elections in the state to field candidates in all the 18 council areas and wards, stressing the need for a level playing field for all the parties and their candidates.

The state leadership of the PPA said this at the party's secretariat in Calabar, protesting the N300, 000 and N200, 000 allegedly levied as tax clearance on each aspirant wishing to contest as chairman and councillor respectively, describing the amount as outrageous.

Less than three months to the local government elections, the state Chairman of the PPA, Mr. Goddie Archibong Akpama and other members of the State Executive Council have written to the state Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, expressing fears that opposition parties might lose scores of candidates, as many were said to have opted to withdraw from the race, due to the taxes and other levies imposed on them by the state Internal Revenue Service, which were described as high and unaffordable.

According to Mr. Akpama: 'We in PPA see this as a ploy by the PDP government in the state to rig opposition out of the race in most of the local government councils, because only the ruling party has such money to sponsor candidates to run elections for all the chairmanship and councillorship positions.'

Following the tax policy, Mr. Akpama lamented that scores of candidates of the opposition parties were yet to pick expression-of-interest forms to contest the elections, alleging that only the PDP 'that has been in government, controlling the resources of the state since 2003 may afford to pay for its candidates.'

The state exco members, including the PPA House of Representatives candidate for Odukpani/Calabar Municipal Constituency, Architect John Etim Bassey who spoke with our correspondent, said the PPA was prepared to capture the entire state in order to open up new vista of hope for the people of the state, urging the state government not to manipulate the electoral process through imposition of high taxes on aspirants.

In their letter to the governor, which was made available to Daily Sun, the state leadership of the PPA, lamented that Cross River State had been a one party state, since 2003, alleging high poverty among members of the opposition parties, occasioned by alleged winner-takes-all attitudes of the ruling party.

In their protest letter to the governor, which they copied the Speaker of the State House of Assembly and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, they said as a political party, 'we say no to this outrageous tax system.'

According to Mr. Akpama: 'We (members of PPA) are conscious of the fact that Cross River State has been a one party state for the past seven years. The ruling party, the PDP, has the resources which oppositions do not have, so for the state Internal Revenue Service to say that each aspirant should pay such exorbitant amount of money to get tax clearance, it means they want the PDP to be the only party that will run the elections in most of the council areas.'

The state chairman said the PPA was prepared to resist all forms of rigging, hence the State Independent Electoral Commission (CROSIFC) should ensure that the council elections would be free and fair for credible candidates to emerge.

Members of the state exco further boasted that the visit of the National Chairman of the party, Mr. Larry Esin to the state recently has boosted their morale towards winning the council elections, maintaining that 'PDP must fall in Cross River State, come August 2010.'

In his speech, Akpama commended Governor Imoke for assuring all the registered political parties that there would be 'one man one vote,' saying free and fair election was the only way to achieve good governance and meaningful development for the state.