“Is the exemption of ecclesiastical bodies from taxation justified?” This was the topic debated at the AUN Honor Society debate held on March 10.
Introducing the debaters, Mr. Shittu Ayodeji of Advising Unit, who served as the moderator, said, “A great argument in a learning environment is not about who is right or wrong but who is more convincing.”
Before the verbal sparring kicked off, one of the judges, Mrs. Emilienne Akpan of the Writing Center, remarked that debates are also a learning opportunity to enable students gain multifaceted knowledge outside the classroom.
She read out the criteria for judging the debate, stating that contestants would be scored on organization, clarity, arguments, and use of cross-examination, as well as presentation style.
The intense argument was between two teams: Team One comprising law students, Taslim Oladoja, Christine Vihishima, and Hauwa Hamidu; Team Two consisted of students from other AUN schools--Chidera Nweke, Exploits Nicholas, and Mohammed Chubado.
Team Lead Oladoja proposed that religious bodies should be exempt because they are non-profit. He backed his arguments saying that under section 23 of the Companies Income Tax Act, these bodies do not render services or sell products and ought not to be levied with tax.
Supporting Oladoja’s arguments, Ms. Vihishima stated that in order to separate the church from the state, taxation should restrict physical relationship between both organizations.
On the opposing side, Nicholas claimed that considering the extravagant lifestyles of religious leaders and the sprouting of new churches from every corner (while an average parishioner lives in penury), the tax would curb their excesses. He also added that religion has bred atrocities like those perpetrated by Boko Haram.
Another speaker, Chidera Nweke, said that taxes are not the only way to the success of a society.
The controversial topic also spurred a debate in the audience about religious bodies which own money-making institutions, and whether or not they should pay tax. It was also argued that religious leaders actually live on gifts.
Team One won the debate and received cash prizes while all the debate participants, judges, and moderator received certificates of appreciation.
By Nelly Ating