July 4, 2020
Chief (Sir) Willie Obiano
Governor, Anambra State
Government House, Awka
Your Excellency Sir,
PSPF AND RULAAC APPEAL TO YOUR EXCELLENCY TO REIN IN AND CHECK THE EXCESSES OF ANAMBRA INLAND REVENUE SERVICE (AIRS), OPERATION CLEAN AND HEALTHY ANAMBRA (OCHA) BRIGADE, THE NIGERIA SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS (NSCDC) AND OTHER AGENCIES INVOLVED IN LAW ENFORCEMENT DUTIES IN ANAMBRA STATE, IN ORDER TO GUARANTEE THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS AND WELLBEING OF TOILING ANAMBRA RESIDENTS ESPECIALLY, DURING THIS DIFFICULT PERIOD OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
Police Stakehokders Partnership Forum (PSPF), Anambra State and Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) hereby, respectfully bring to your attention the contentious issue of the excesses and overzealous activities of Anambra Inland Revenue Service (AIRS) Enforcement Task Force, and other agencies carrying out law enforcement duties in Anambra State during this challenging COVID-19 pandemic, and which activities impact negatively on the fundamental rights and wellbeing of Anambra residents.
We will illustrate with the case of Citizen Chukwuma Okoye of Zenith Cyber Cafe, Bantu Plaza, 11 Ifite Road, Off Arroma Junction, Awka, Anambra State.
Mr Okoye, through a petition dated 3rd July, 2020 brought to the attention of Police Stakehokders Partnership Forum (PSPF), Anambra State the complaint of ILLEGAL ARREST, DETENTION, ASSAULT, UNLAWFUL CONVERSION OF PROPERTY AND CONDUCT LIKELY TO CAUSE BREACH OF THE PEACE BY OFFICERS OF ANAMBRA STATE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, NIGERIA SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS, AND OPERATION CLEAN AND HEALTHY ANAMBRA (OCHA) BRIGADE.
Mr. Okoye informed us as follows :
- That on the 1st day of July 2020, he was in his office, Zenith Cyber Café situate at Bantu Plaza, Off Aroma Junction, Awka when his neighbours drew his attention to the presence of revenue collectors within their vicinity and that they were harassing shop owners who refused to pay them the levies they were demanding.
- That residents of the neighbourhood were very much displeased because there was no prior demand notice issued to any of them to that effect before the officials came to demand payments and moreover, considering the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on economic activities in the State, that was the wrong time to use strong arm tactic to demand and extract revenue from suffering residents struggling to survive.
- That his wife, Mrs. Maureen Okoye stepped out of his office with her phone to take video record of the scene where the revenue officials were terrorizing residents and, as she was doing that, one of the drivers of the vehicles that brought the revenue officials who they later identified as Tony Ekemezie, rushed at his wife in an attempt to forcefully seize her phone and confiscate same from her for daring to take the video records of their activities.
- That in the process of the assault, the said driver damaged his wife’s necklace, and he was attracted to the noise and commotion which made him rush out of his office and immediately intervened to stop the assault on his wife who was about being pushed against an electric pole behind her in a desperate bid to take the phone from her.
- That at this point, some armed officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) together with some officers of Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade who accompanied the revenue officials rushed to the scene. One NSCDC officer cocked his gun pointing same at him while threatening to shoot him and his wife for taking the video records.
- That the officials confiscated his wife’s phone, went into his office and collected his POS machines with bank tokens and then dragged him like a common criminal into one of their vehicles (designed like a Black Maria) and drove off to Revenue House, Awka.
- That when they got to their office, the officers locked him up inside the car for more than one hour and went into the office. It was when he started kicking frantically at the door of the vehicle that they brought him out of the vehicle. The NSCDC officers then handcuffed him while one slapped him severally.
- That at this point, some of his neighbours at Bantu Plaza arrived to plead for his release. He was eventually released to them after he was forced to pay the sum of N8,000.00 (Eight Thousand Naira) as Levy for Business Premises for Cyber Cafe, and another N5,000.00 (Five Thousand Naira) as penalty/fine.
- That after the said payments, he asked for his items that were confiscated and was asked to wait for Tony Ekemezie who had driven off in another vehicle the moment they reached Revenue House.
- That after a long wait, the said Tony Ekemezie came back and returned his POS machines, his wife’s phone and the damaged necklace but denied being in possession of the bank tokens. Our Concerns
It is our belief that the above actions of the revenue officers especially Tony Ekemezie, the NSCDC and OCHA Brigade officials are unlawful, illegal and oppressive. These actions are in flagrant violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens affected and must be condemned by all well-meaning individuals.
We are concerned that at these very difficult and challenging times of Covid-19 pandemic, when economic activities have been seriously impeded by measures put in place to contain the pandemic and when citizens’ social and economic wellbeing are negatively affected, it is unconscionable and inhumane for revenue and other officials of government carrying out law enforcement duties to be mistreating suffering citizens using strong arm tactics and despicable violence in a bid to force scarce resources off them.
We hereby, appeal to Your Excellency, as the Chief Security Officer of the State, to call to order, the management of AIRS and officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps(NSCDC) and Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade, and prevail on them to adopt humane, civilised and reasonable approaches in their operations. Federal agencies like the NSCDC must remain focused on their mandates rather than offer themselves as tools of oppression. They must refrain from actions that will further impose more economic hardship on hapless citizens.
We also, appeal to your excellency Sir, to order an impartial and effective investigation into the reprehensible conducts of AIRS and other officials responsible in the above stated violations.
The victims deserve unreserved apology and the return of the funds illegally extorted from them.
While we look forward to the prompt, exhaustive and fair treatment of this complaint, your Excellency Sir, kindly accept the assurances of our esteemed regards.
- Prince Chris Azor (08032102294) for PSPF
- Okechukwu Nwanguma (08064974531) for RULAAC)