Ekiti State Government has shut seven schools run by the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti for failure to pay the Education Development Levy.
Under the new tax regime, pupils in primary and secondary schools are to pay N500 and N1,000, respectively.
The catholic schools had requested the government to exclude its schools from the payment, a request that was rejected.
The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, Most Reverend Felix Ajakaye, who broke the news in Ado Ekiti, accused the state government of being insensitive by shutting the schools when students were preparing for their National Examinations Council Examinations
Ajakaye said, “I am concerned about the propriety of imposing any development levy on pupils and students in Catholic mission schools in Ekiti State, moreover when our schools are paying various levies and taxes demanded by both the local and state governments respectively.
“The closure of the schools is very painful personally to me. They are writing exams and government is closing down their schools. That is insensitivity.”
The Diocese operates 15 primary and seven secondary schools in the state.
Confirming the development, the State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr Jide Egunjobi, said, “It is true we shut the catholic schools that failed to pay. Some of them have paid and are operational. We only shut those that refused to pay.
“We all agreed to the development levy at the education summit, so, there is no going back.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Diocese has sued the Ekiti State Government for imposing education development levies on pupils in its primary and secondary schools.
In an originating summons filed at Ekiti State High Court by the Incorporated Trustees of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, the plaintiff asked the court to declare that imposition of levies as illegal, unconstitutional and null and void.
It contended that the action violated Section 2 of Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004 and Section 19 of Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Law.
The defendants are the Attorney General of Ekiti State and the Commissioner for Education.
The Church asked the court to determine “whether every child of primary school and junior secondary school age in Ekiti State is not entitled to free and compulsory basic education under Section 2 of Compulsory Free Universal Education Act, 2004 and Section 19 of Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board Law.”
“If the imposition of education development levy or any tax or levy on pupils and schools in Ekiti State, including the claimants schools, by the defendants, does not violate Section 2 of Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004 and Section 19 of Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Law.
“Whether the defendants could impose education development levy or tax on pupils and schools “without a law validly passed by the Ekiti State House of Assembly” in view of some sections of the Nigerian constitution.”
While praying the court to declare that the defendants could not impose education development levy or tax on pupils and schools, the palintiff also sought an order restraining the defendants from further demand of the levy.
The Church also sought an order of mandatory injunction directing the defendants to endorse and approve the applications of students of its schools for the 2016 NECO examination pending the determination of the substantive case.
It also sought a similar order for its pupils in the various primary schools run by the church in Ekiti Diocese.