By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
Two events informed an insight into the Anambra IGR
The tax and revenue collectors are already in the field and sometimes exhibit overzealousness that may lead to loss of lives like what happened recently when three people were confirmed dead, while eight others sustained injuries in an accident involving two vehicles at Amansea, Awka North local government area near Awka, along Awka – Enugu old road.
Mr Pascal Anigbo, Public Relations Officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Anambra, said the accident involved a stationary DAF truck with registration number: GGE 167 XP suspected to be faulty and a 14-passenger Toyota Hummer bus with registration number: BAL 266 XA. According to him, the crash occurred around 6.00a.m.
Some blamed the accident on what they called alleged extortion of heavy duty drivers by agents claiming to be working for the State government. They informed that the accident was caused by some agents, who were collecting revenue for produce from stationary Lorries. One of the eye witnesses, explained that the fourteen seater bus, which was on its way to Lagos from Taraba state, rammed into the lorry stopped by revenue agents. According to them, the driver of the lorry was delayed over the night for not cooperating with revenue agents over the amount he was asked to pay.
The Chairman, Amalgamated food stuff and Cattle dealers of Nigeria, Alhaji Bello Maigari, who also witnessed the incident, alleged that the activities of revenue collectors in the area was a source of worry, which needs urgent intervention from the government.
Alhaji Bello said that produce carriers from the northern part of the country pay up to four hundred thousand naira (N400,000) to revenue agents per trailer load of cow from Adamawa down to Anambra state. He therefore appealed to both state and federal governments to look into the situation as it was adversely affecting their business.
A citizen’s cry for help
Again, a patriot, Comrade Osita Obi wrote Governor Obiano over multiple taxes frustrating tipper drivers in the state who have more than thrice blocked the expressway alleging extortion.
Comrade Obi, an Environmental activist from Umuawulu, Awka South local government area, Anambra state had during 2019 December wrote Obiano on behalf of All Tipper Drivers’ Association of Anambra State which he is not a member. He was worried Tipper drivers were denied opportunity to gather revenue and return to government as traders and Keke drivers were asked to do even when the Tipper drivers resolved to continue to assist the development objectives and policies of the Anambra state government by making voluntary contributions on monthly basis from their revenue window to the tune of N10, 000, 000.00, but the government turned it down.
He wondered why the government rather appointed new revenue collectors that would forcibly extort the same banned levies and tolls from tipper drivers in the state and remit something less N10M, hence their protest which has led to some highly placed politicians in government threatening them publicly, even had their leaders framed, arrested by SARS, brought before Magistrate courts and thrown to prison unjustly.
He was curious that the Tipper Drivers won in court and judgment delivered in their favour in 2018 by a Federal High Court sitting in Awka under suit number FHC/AWK/CS/104/2017 and the court said the tippers should not be harassed again as the matters thereto are in the exclusive legislative list of which Anambra state can neither legislate nor collect taxes and levies on the sands etc, but that never happened.
The court even gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the collection of money, tax, levy, toll, revenue, dues or fees on sand , stone, laterite , gravel and the likes etc from Tipper drivers and tipper operators in Anambra state, especially when these monies were not demanded from their clients when they carry timbers and firewood or cement or farm produce as well as other items. But, these monies were demanded only when they carry minerals such as stones and gravels etc.
Comrade Obi was still querying the rationale as he recalled that ‘’the court ordered the government to refund the tipper drivers the sum of N30 Million collected monthly from July 2018 to February 2019 from the tipper drivers in violation of the final judgment with 26 percent interest. The extortion is still on. The tipper drivers in Anambra state pay levies of N30,000,000.00 every month but the third party collecting it pays into the government coffers N4Millon monthly. Where is the remaining N26 Million Sir? Why should this be happening under your government? Why should the tipper drivers not be collecting the revenue themselves to pay into the government coffers? The drivers promised to assist the government evacuate wastes every sanitation day across the state at no cost yet it was turned down. Is this not corruption under your watch?
‘’I went to town to confirm the levies claimed and my discovery was that till date as I write you this letter, despite your ban on illegal revenue , Tipper drivers were and still been harassed by government agents and revenue collectors to pay daily forcibly too, the sum of N700.00 for each trip of sand , stone, laterite and the likes for small tippers and N1,400.00 for double tippers. These levies amount to over N30 Million monthly’’.
From injury to salt from APC
Adding to the pains of the masses was the position of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Anambra state through the State Publicity Secretary, Okelo Madukaife who asked Governor Willie Obiano to shore up Anambra State revenue or resign his appointment to allow those gifted in the craft take over, before the state becomes insolvent.
APC said: ‘’It is obvious that with a sky-drop from the seventh position in ranking of states for internally generated revenue (IGR), to the 25th ,and a stationery average of N1bn , representing no growth, despite all legal and illegal taxes and levies imposed on the state, it is either we are weak as a state or we are wicked to our governance structure through cheating.
APC accused Obiano’s government of not being in control of the state’s economic indices, adding that, ‘ ……but how can they when there is no check? How can they when the governor of a state sneaks out quietly and leaves his state on autopilot for months?
‘’In either case, the governor should take responsibility because Anambra State is bleeding, while living in the glory of the past.
‘’When we heard ‘ Operation Kpochapu’ which literally means ‘ Operation Wipe Out’, we little realised that the target was to wipe out our revenue base by dwindling creativity ,lavish private expenditure of public funds and wasteful propaganda to match, all in a fruitless bid to prove that someone is walking when his state should run.
‘’For a state which has spent the last five years without any meaningful investment on infrastructure, even down to the airport and power plants promised and sang with, these figures are frightening.
‘’And pray, under which folio has the purported N4bn industrial investment impacted the state’ s revenue base, if the financial picture remains this grim?
‘’All hands including that of the Anambra State House of Assembly, all stakeholders and all citizens and residents to arrest this drift and return our state to the path of growth.
‘’APC is willing and able to play a strong role’’.
Again, Senator Stella Oduah, Senator representing Anambra North Senatorial Zone in the Senate, had said after a market fire in Ochanja market that: “Incidentally, Ochanja market is a major source of huge revenue as poor traders are heavily taxed daily and one would have expected that a minute portion of these humongous funds should have been set aside to set up a functional fire-fighting service with state of the art equipment to avert disasters like we are witnessing today.”
“I call on all those collecting funds in the form of various levies from these poor traders to step up their game so as to avert such avoidable disasters in the future”.
Pontificating too was Comrade Dede Uzor. A Uzor, the BoT Chairman, Human Rights, Liberty Access and Defenders Foundation (HURIJE) and National Publicity Secretary, Campaign for Democracy, CD who claimed in a recent interview that ‘’the extortions and thuggery in Onitsha have made a hell of nightmare for traders’, adding that , ‘ Imagine one would buy his wares and be made to pay a huge percentage tax from those thugs and at the end of the day, he sells without profit’.
Dede Uzor suggested that: ‘’The State government needs to have a unified ticket in the sense that wherever one obtains such ticket, it could take the person to other parts of the state without molestation. Government should keep to their promises compared to the achievements of other governments that have come in the past.
Extortion and diversion of tax revenue condemned
Communication Director, Catholic Diocese of Awka , Rev Fr Dr Martin Anusi described the manner of operation of revenue collectors in Anambra as unprofessional. He recalled that around March this year in full COVID-19 era , a bus belonging to the diocese was stopped around Aroma junction in Awka by some road workers, demanding for payment of what they called emblems. He decried that the account number he was given to pay was individual account not government dedicated account number even when the diocese has the ANSSID number. It was shocking that motorists without this emblem pay up to N30,000 as penalty.
Another unhappy citizen, Mr Sunday Nnamdi, a keke driver at Unizik junction told a Roman Catholic newspaper that they pay N450 on daily basis which amounts to N14,000 every month. But in Enugu Keke drivers pay N100 daily. Another Keke driver at Aroma near Ekwueme square axis, Danladi Musa said in his Nasarawa home, keke drivers pay N50 but at Aroma they pay N350, adding that he registered the Keke with N39,000 and must renew his ID Card every year with N3,500.
But, the organization with contract of issuance of emblems, Hopechis Ventures limited led by Onowu Jude Nwokolo explained that the payment was not in private accounts as they have paid into government account after the biding. He informed that enforcement does not start at the beginning of the year because of grace period even as he spoke on the different consolidated emblems commercial drivers needed to have to operate freely at a cost between N5,000 and N8,000 but if not paid and the vehicle impounded , the defaulter pays between N25,000 and N30,000 used in settling the field workers and space the impounded vehicles are kept.
Protest Galore rocks the state over multiple taxation, illegal revenue
Anambra vendors protest extortion by Obiano police
It came to a low that Newspaper distributors in Awka, the Anambra State capital went on an indefinite strike over alleged harassment and extortion by the Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra State Brigade, otherwise known as ‘Obiano police’. They discontinued the distribution of newspapers and magazines in the area until the state government assured them of their safety.
They claimed their tables and umbrellas had been confiscated by the OCHA Brigade while their members were being molested by the agency’s officials. They had complained to various government offices in the state, including the office of the Secretary to the State Government, to no avail.
They said it was disappointing that they met the Director of OCHA Brigade, Mr Douglas Okafor, who assured them it was wrong for his men to disturb them, but, it turned out they indeed became their nightmare, though the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C-Don Adinuba later intervened.
Continue: The burden of multiple taxation in Anambra and the relentless war thereto, amidst COVID 19 Pandemic (Part 3)
Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD. Odogwu, a culture and tradition aficionado and a foodie is a known Journalist, Editor, Media Consultant and famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, publisher and Conversationalist @ www.odogwublog.com among others.
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