Panic as Ebonyi government, federal taskforce clash in Abakaliki
Federal Joint Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement Team against Multiple Taxes along Nigerian Highways, recently set up by the Federal Government to checkmate the extortion of motorists commuting farm produce across the country, Wednesday, clashed with men of Ebonyi state Board of Internal Revenue in Abakaliki.
The Guardian learnt that the Ebonyi Government team comprising officials from the State’s Board of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Governor’s Senior Special Adviser on Internal Security, and youths stormed a hotel where the Taskforce was to take off its maiden operations on highways in the state.
Almost all sectors of the Nigerian economy are characterised by duplication of agencies, many of whom frustrate rather than boost economic activities in their respective domains.
The Federal Agency’s team operating under the aegis of the Nigerian Association of Agricultural Produce Dealers, which comprised officers from various parts of the country, claimed it was in the state for an enlightenment campaign on its activities.
The situation degenerated into an intense clash, as both groups were evacuated to the Police Command Headquarters by top officers to restore order at the hotel.
The National Vice Chairman of the group, Chief Ozo Okonkwo, said they were in the state as part of their monitoring activities. He said: “We are not intimidating anybody or collecting any form of revenue but to ensure that the high cost of food items in the country is reduced through the eradication of levies collected while conveying them.
He noted that they were duly established by law, as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Inspector General of Police had written to state governors concerning its activities.
But the Chairman of the Ebonyi State BIR, Dr Chris Achi, described the group as “illegal”, saying they had no business collecting or monitoring revenue collection in the state.
“We discovered that the group has been coming to the state to disrupt our revenue collection and intimidating the people without caring to consult the state government on its activities,” he alleged.
He said he had received calls on December 28, and January 2nd complaining that the group was intimidating road users but could not apprehend them. “We intercepted them on January 2, but curiously beheld officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in their entourage, as the group claimed they were collecting revenue in the state.
The Governor’s Security Adviser, Kenneth Ugbala, claimed the group was chanting war songs at the hotel and none of them could indicate who their leader was.
“We are shutting the Adonai Hotels until the security agencies conclude their investigation on the incident and this would serve as a deterrent to other hotels which harbour unwanted people in their hotel,” he said.
It was gathered that even the NSCDC officials attached to the federal agency were all rounded-up, reportedly beaten to pulps and taken into Police custody on the instructions of the State Government.
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