Opinion: Two years of Leo Leo Umana, taxation and Gov. Udom Emmanuel

Mr. Leo Leo Umana was appointed and inaugurated as member of the Akwa Ibom state Board of Internal Revenue Services about two years ago. The board which is made up of 5 members has Mr. Okon Okon as the chairman; Dr Ekere Afia as the Executive Director in charge of Research, Planning and Communications; Elder Nse Atang as the Executive Director of Finance and Accounts; Mrs. Ikemesit Ekpro as Secretary and Mr. Leo Umana as Director in Charge of Enforcement and Recovery.

The board members and other members of staff of the state revenue services have in less than 2 years moved the board to an enviable height. The collaborative effort of the members led to the rapid growth in the internally generated revenue of Akwa Ibom state which has increased from the N14 billion the board met in 2017 to the about N24billion they closed with in 2018. The 2018 tax index achieved by the board remains all time high since the creation of Akwa Ibom state. The 2018 benchmark moved Akwa Ibom from the 18th position to the 8th position in the national IGR table.

The success of the board as reflected in the state current tax index is largely made possible by the business friendly environment facilitated by the government of Gov. Udom Emmanuel and the intensive awareness, campaigns, enforcement and recovery efforts made by the board.

As a member of the board and executive director in Charge of Enforcement and Recovery, Mr Leo Umana  plays significant role in helping the board recover funds to the state coffers. He is responsible for dragging defaulters to revenue courts where billions of Naira has been recovered for the state. It is on record that he led the team of enforcement and recovery officers to seal the UBA, Fidelity Bank, Unity banks among others for PAYEE non-compliance. The operation led to major breakthrough and recovery of backlog of arrears, and of course billions raked into the state account.

Mr. Leo Umana is fondly called ‘tax collector’ by some Facebook users. This is because he interjects virtually every conversation, private or official, with the question, ‘have you paid your tax? He has over the years employed Facebook and other social network platforms to enlighten members of the public on why tax should be paid and the ensuing utility index. It is remarkable to note that before his appointment as a member of the board of internal revenue services, awareness on taxation in the state was relatively limited. Leo Umana’s relationship with the masses has enormously shaped people’s perception on the positive impact of taxation. His friendly disposition towards top business owners and executives and the public at large has on several occasions reportedly made recovery easier and litigation unnecessary.

To really have a better view and accordingly appreciate the person, personality and principality of the man, Leo Umana, it’s necessary a beam of light be directed to his past before the present. Leo Umana, popularly known as Bishop and of recent, Arch Bishop of the Bachelor Must Marry by Force Ministry (BMMF) had what most people would discern as a not too pleasant childhood. Besides being a child of not too rich parents, death repeatedly struck at the two of the most formative stages of his life. He lost his father immediately after his secondary education and lost the mother the very first day he stepped his foot in the university to process his admission, but trust the motivator beyond words, he was not deterred. He got engaged in raffia weaving and other skills as an orphan to assist himself while studying in the university and today he is not only in possession of a first degree but also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration and Masters in Public Administration.

Leo Umana is a social commentator/analyst with special interest in marriage counseling, entrepreneurship and grace ministry. Although he was always popular, the climax came the very day he refunded the sum of N1.8 million, being overpaid contract money to the Akwa Ibom state secondary education board on 7th December, 2016. The story of that rare gesture is speculated to have opened so many doors for the philanthropist and whether that or other factors recommended him for appointment by Gov. Udom Emmanuel is not information in the public square and is inconsequential.

Bishop Leo Umana notably after his appointment in 2017 exceptionally evolved from being a mere desktop administrator and that fierce looking and intimidating tax collector that most people would act to becoming one of the most friendly political office holder in the administration of Gov. Udom Emmanuel. His first mind blowing public event was in December 2017 when as the youth leader he hosted all the youths of Ikot Ekpene local government area and then in February 2018, just 2 months after, he single handedly hosted the first and the last gathering of singles and married people conference by a none theologically certified bishop in Uyo. The event had more than 50 couples in attendance, more than 300 bachelors and spinsters under one roof with top politicians and prominent religious-marriage counselors among which included commissioner Ephraim Unyangeyen; Rt. Hon and Mrs. Aniekan Uko; Pastor Ezekiel Atang; Bishop Mrs. Helen Edgar among others. It is on record that more than 6 couples got engaged at the event, more than 50 secret relationships were exposed and in the last one year more than 50 persons who attended the event have sealed their marriage thereafter. It is also an established fact that Leo Umana does not only counsel, pray or attend the marriage of the supposed members of his ministry, he also gives financial support.

The village man as Mr. Leo Umana often described himself also recently handed over a borehole and a complete water tank to the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Ikot Inyang and also paid the villagers a special visit in respect of Gov. Udom Emmanuel on 17th August 2018 where he feted over 200 aged women, over 100 traders, over 100 students and over 50 entrepreneurs and artisans.

As a born entrepreneur, Leo Umana’s busy schedule as a board member has not taken him away from grooming his business and young entrepreneurs. In December 2018, he was among the top online marketers of chickens in Uyo. He is a regular guest on the Umbrella Business Quest, a weekly radio program sponsored by the Akwa Ibom state PDP where he scrutinizes contestants as well as offer business insight to listeners.

Leo Umana is versed in the bible, business and politics; besides tax and taxation, most of his discussions balled around the three concepts. The three have also been crucial and recurrent factors in the current polity of the state and hence Arch Bishop Leo Umana is likely to become a recurrent decimal in the polity. Gov. Udom Emmanuel necessarily needs to be commended for his choice of Mr. Leo Umana which has not only help promote entrepreneurship but enhanced the productivity of the tax sector in the state.

Leo Umana is happily married to Mrs. Blessing Leo and the marriage is blessed with children.

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