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HomeNewsPeasant Resistance against Increased Taxation and the 1964 Tiv Revolt.

Peasant Resistance against Increased Taxation and the 1964 Tiv Revolt.

“Taxes are paid in the sweat of every man who labors. If those taxes are excessive, they are reflected in idle factories, in tax-sold farms, and in hordes of hungry people, tramping the streets and seeking jobs in vain. Our workers may never see a tax bill, but they pay. They pay in deductions from wages, in increased cost of what they buy, or in broad unemployment throughout the land.” Franklin D. Roosevelt.

There is hunger in the land. The youths are restless. Speaking in the soft, smooth, silky voice of a professional politician, at the 19 th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference in Uyo, Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser, said “We have inherited a very difficult country, a bankrupt country, to the extent that we are paying back what was taken. It is serious. But this administration is doing its best to meet our requirements”. This statement is false. This administration did not inherit a very difficult, bankrupt country and it is not doing its best to meet our requirements.

The National Bureau of Statistics has announced that Nigeria’s inflation rate skyrocketed to 27.33% in October 2023. The Urban inflation rate was 29.29% while Rural inflation rate was 25.58%. The Food inflation rate increased to 31.52%. The increase in petrol prices from N182/litre to N617/litre imposed by the Tinubu administration in June 2023 increased the prices of food and all the other means of subsistence. The highest increases were recorded in prices of Transport by Road. The average fare paid per drop by commuters for bus journeys within cities increased to N1,337.80 in September 2023. The average transport fare paid on Okada transportation increased to N646.29 in the same month. For water transport, the average fare increased to N1,406.84. The increase in the transport of goods and persons in the last 5 months has increased the input costs in all sectors. The
exchange rate on the street increased from N720/$1 to $1290 after the administration floated the Naira. The IMF sponsored energy and monetary policies implemented by the Tinubu Administration is primarily responsible for the severe bankruptcy of the nation and the current difficulties faced by Nigerian workers and peasants.

The Tinubu administration plans to make matter worst by implementing the IMF sponsored revenue mobilization policies of increased taxation. The IMF recommended that the Tinubu administration raise tax revenue from 4% of GDP to 11% and increase VAT rate from the current 7.5 percent to 10 percent by 2023 and to 15 percent by 2027. Speaking on the Nigerian economic crisis on October 13, 2023, Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director, African Department, IMF said, “I think in Nigeria, by far the most important cause of the pressures is the fact that the government doesn't generate enough tax revenues for all the services it needs to provide”. The Tinubu administration plans to “deepen tax collection by restructuring and automating key revenue generating MDA”. More tax revenue will be
generated by commercializing most government services and collecting 40% of the internal generated revenue (IGR) of the MDAs. The administration will broaden the tax net by collecting taxes from informal sector players such as SME, market women, the self employed, the unemployed and peasants in the rural areas. The administration will have zero tolerance for tax evasion. Increase taxes will be imposed on peasants and private companies will ensure compliance with the aid of goons, area boys and thugs. The taxation of peasant is most likely to meet strong resistance as we have shown with the 1960 Tax revolt.

Excessive taxation will be met with intensified peasant resistance as we will see when we examine the 1964 Tiv peasants revolt The 1960 Tiv revolt reduced the amount of revenue collected by the Northern Regional government during a year in which the wage bill had increased due to the Mbanefo awards. Many development projects were abandoned and the implementation of others, worth a total of £19m, was transferred to the 1962-68 development period. The Fletcher Commission which assessed the 1960 riot damage
estimated the cost at over half a million pounds. The Northern Regional Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, gave a directive that male peasants in Tiv land would pay an additional special levy of two pounds, eleven shillings (£2.11) per head for the 1960 riot damages.

The special levy reignited the peasant anti tax revolt. Peasant resistance to the NPC controlled Tiv Native Authority resurfaced in 1963. The peasant revolt began in February, 1964 when the Tiv Native Authority began to collect the taxes and special levy. The peasants organized themselves in mobile units and proceeded to resist the tax assessments. Local court houses were burnt and tax assessors, village heads and District heads were attacked. The village head in Mbalagh was killed. The Northern Regional government attributed the resistance to the agitation carried out by UMBC cadres. It responded by arresting UMBC organizers and imprisoning them. Peasants caught resisting tax assessment were also jailed.

The Regional government moved the Nigerian Police into Tiv land and attempted to pacify both the revolting peasants and political opposition. The peasants reacted by initiating nightly guerrilla attacks and ambushes on police convoys. Four policemen were killed and many more wounded. The Inspector- General of Police Mr John Hodge visited Police units in an effort to encourage them. There were many WWII veterans among the peasants and their guerrilla tactics soon rendered the police ineffective. A military contingent from 5 Battalion, Nigerian Army under Captain Onwuatuegwu was sent in to enforce order as the anti tax revolt intensified and engulfed Buruku, Ugba, Sevav, Zaki-Biam, Ayati and other parts of Tiv land. The troops were withdrawn after a few weeks when the peasants withdrew to their villages. The peasant attacks resumed soon after.

In July 1964, four police riot units were deployed to Tiv division to reinforce those already stationed there. An Assistant Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Baba Jimeta, was placed in charge of police emergency operations. By July 1964, Forty seven peasants had been killed, fifty injured and one hundred and eighty one arrested. By mid-August, 1964, 800 Tiv peasants had been arrested and more than 80 were dead. In September, the Tiv peasants encircled Makurdi and attacked the police post in the town. Numerous attacks were made on other Tiv towns. The change in tactics, from rural ambushes to urban attacks, caught the police off guard. They deployed their forces and brought in more reinforcement. However, the police found themselves in an inferior military position.

Whenever, they concentrated on the towns, the rural villages would explode with demonstrations, attacks on government officials and buildings and other acts of resistance. This forced them to disperse their forces, whereupon the peasants would then carry out swift ambushes. As more policemen were sent into the rural areas, the peasants concentrated their attacks on urban targets.

The only solution for the police was to be everywhere at every time. This required a lot of manpower as the bad roads in Tiv land negated the police advantage of increased mobility by police lorries. More police reinforcement were sent to Tiv land by railway.

The peasants changed their tactics to fit the new conditions. In October, 1964, they attacked and destroyed many railway stations. Railway lines were uprooted and the Enugu-Kaduna rail services were interrupted so often that the ability of the Northern Regional government to bring in police reinforcement by railway was greatly reduced. The police attempted to change the tactics of the peasants by attacking villages where railway stations or nearby railway lines had been destroyed. For example, in October, the police attacked Shangetic village and killed 15 peasants. This retaliation did not make the peasants change their tactics. They continued their attacks on the railway system thereby interrupting the smooth flow of trade between the Northern and Eastern Regions as well as
the the evacuation of Northern export crops to the southern ports by railway. The Federal
government declared an emergency in Tiv land and called upon the Nigerian Army as it became clear that the Nigerian police could not handle the revolting peasants.

In November 1964, the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, ordered the army: “ to take immediate steps to ensure a return to normal life” in the crisis – torn Tiv division.” The Third Battalion (3 NA) and the Reece Squadron moved into Tiv land under “Operation Adam III” . The Third Battalion was commanded by Colonel Pam while the Recce Squadron was under the command of Major Hassan Kastina. The Nigerian Army carried out search operations, collective fines, mass arrests, detention, torture and extrajudicial executions. Armed conflicts ceased as the Army took control of the town councils and native Authority. All tax assessment efforts were halted and fair electoral practices were promised during the upcoming December, 1964 election. In the December election, UMBC won 4 out of 7 seats and the Nigerian Army arrested one hundred and twenty two persons for attempting to incite riots. During February, 1965, the Third Battalion was replaced by a company from the Fifth Battalion of the Nigerian Army. This company was under the command of Captain Onwuatuegwu.

The military occupation of Tiv land continued until the outbreak of the civil war. According to Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern region, three hundred and twenty six peasants died during the revolt. Many policemen were killed.

A commission of enquiry was established by the Northern Regional government to investigate the causes of the 1964 Tiv peasant revolt. The commission attributed the revolts and conflicts to UMBC agitation for an autonomous Middle Belt Region. Little or no mention was made of the imposition of excessive taxes as a strategy of revenue mobilization by the Northern Regional government and the resulting resistance by the Tiv peasantry. Following the report, the Governor of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Sir Kashim Ibrahim, granted amnesty to one hundred and fourteen Tiv peasant prisoners. The
other prisoners were released one year later when the Nigerian Armed Forces took political control of the regions. Direct taxes collected in Tiv land during 1963-1964 period were minimal.

Our analysis of the 1964 Tiv peasant revolt against excessive taxation shows that Nigerian peasants will resist any attempt by the Tinubu administration to mobilize revenue by taxing them. Nigerian peasants have the autonomous capacity to struggle for their self interests and sustainable development understood as having more disposable income and leisure time for their families. This was true, not only in Tiv land but all over the country. We will examine the struggles of cocoa farmers in South Western Nigeria against increased taxation in our next article. This is a story we must tell so that our youths will know why and how their ancestors fought for their sustainable development in the past.

Izielen Agbon
November 18, 2023.



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