Abia: Police shoot student in Aba for infrastructure levy
By Odimegwu Onwumere
By Odimegwu Onwumere
Abia State Government under the supervision of Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji had said that it targets N1.2b yearly revenue from infrastructure, property taxes. The Abia State Physical Planning and Infrastructural Development Fund Board had stated this.
The government sees the law that created the Fund brouhaha, as a magnum-opus of legislation. The government says that this would stand a test of time. On-the-contrary, there is no gainsaying the fact that time is the healer of everything, as residents are becoming weary of the multiple impositions of levies and taxes on them by the state government.
On November 14, 2013, the government of Gov. Orji allegedly shot a student, at a school in Ogbo Hill area of Aba. A radio station in Aba, confirmed that trouble started, when the students refused a group of Infrastructure Levy collectors admittance into the school premises, compelling police who have become Tax Collectors in Abia, shooting one of the students.
Citizens know that Infrastructure Levy collectors in Abia State are more serious than the government of the day is bent on the development of infrastructures in the state.
When this writer investigated about the school (name withheld), there was apprehension that the school authority did not want to be a target of the Gov. T.A Orji government; hence it declined commenting on the matter and also to save the integrity of the school.
“If the principal of the school doesn’t fight tooth and nail to exonerate government and its agencies from any wrong doing, then he better be ready to withstand whatever befalls him,” said an insider who did not want his name in print.
It was learned that the intention for creating the law for Fund, was to “collect due taxes and levies on designated infrastructure and property” but the story is different today.
It’s noted that the levy collectors are making preys of the residents with the infrastructural levies, whereas places like Osusu-rd-Aba, cemetery/mosque roads, erosion control of Uratta/Timber Market and link roads at Asannentu Spare Parts Markets, all in Aba, and many others around the state, are in direful shapes.
Residents bemoan that levies which are supposed to be collected by expert revenue consultants, have become the occupation of touts. Of-late, officers of the Nigeria Police decried what they said was the “unedifying preoccupation” of their members.
It was a Commissioner of Police, Abia State Command, Mr. Ambrose Aisabor, who had warned members of the profession in the recent past, not to abandon their constitutional duties of “fighting crime and enforcing the law” for frivolities, such as aiding officials of the agencies assigned to be collecting levies in the state.
“Aisabor threatened to deal with any officer or policeman that has turned himself into a tax collector,” confirmed a reporter in a chat in his office. “The police boss said policemen were not tax collectors, but law enforcement agents. He warned that anyone caught going about with tax and revenue collectors in the state for the purpose of tax and revenue collection, would be shown the way out of the force.”
The commissioner, however, added that even though they were duly informed about the levy collectors’ agencies quest to assign their men to them, but “they were not told to be giving them policemen to be going up and down wherever they are going to. That is not our mandate.”
The contradiction in what police had said was when the commissioner of police also said that “any policeman seen following infrastructural or any development levy agency collector without the authority of the Commissioner of Police of Abia State, to collect revenue, definitely, such a policeman or woman will lose his or her job, because revenue collection is not one of our mandates.”
It is a perceived irony when the commissioner said that police are the “weeping child” in any incidents in Nigeria, after saying that police were duly informed to assign their men for tax collectors, but that “when we see any policeman, following any revenue collector, he will have himself to blame. The officer, who posted him, would have himself to blame and the officer, who embarked on such illegal duty, would have himself to blame.”
The handwriting that was detected from the different comments of the commissioner is that any policeman assigned from the office of the commissioner of police to aid tax collectors is legal as against anyone deployed to do the job by any high-ranked officers from any of the police stations.
But in another view to the above, the commissioner had said to levy collectors: “So, if you want to collect your revenue, go about it. If somebody refuses to pay, you go to the law court, let the law take its course.
“And if there is a court judgment or order telling the police to enforce this law or that, we are bound by law to obey. That is, if we are directed by any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce its judgment, we will do that. But for the police to be going about with tax collectors and tax agents, it will not happen in Abia State.”
The operations of different levy collectors in Abia State, have become the beginning of wisdom among residents. Different consultants cum touts go about humiliating residents with the aid of armed policemen and military men. According to a reliable source, not-quite-long in Umuahia, the state capital, tax agents, accompanied by police officers, typhooned the Aba Road office of a furniture maker (names withheld by the source) and manhandled the wife of the shop owner, who was not around, when the oppressors arrived.
It has become a festival of sort in Abia State that residents watch their neighbours haplessly, being assaulted by the security agents, who accompany tax collectors. And, if the authorities are confronted after the tax collectors must have been through with their dastardly act, truth would be sent on exile by the authorities, of not knowing those who carried the barefaced act.
This was against the promise Aisabor reportedly made to a national newspapers correspondent thus: “the time was over when tax agents and revenue collectors would use the police to harass, embarrass and arrest citizens of the state in the name of collecting one tax or the order. According to him, tax or revenue collection is not the mandate of the police.”
There are different voices today bemoaning that Mr. Usman Tilli Abubakar, the current Abia State Police Commissioner is yet to take action on his men like his predecessor promised.
The idea is that it behooves on the commissioner to have note that his men are in collaboration with levy collectors in Abia State, instead of joining hands with recognised vigilante groups in the state for the effectiveness in tackling security challenges in the state.
“The police boss should note that such an act had given the police a bad name, and that police had become the first agency that fall quarry to blackmail, upon a lot of transformation said the Nigeria Police is undergoing,” said a resident of Aba.
Another voice was also saying that any policeman reported for any criminal act in Abia State, should be shown the exit door from the body and from the state and others cautioned, not to toe the line of crime.
“Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and, Commandants of Army should be held responsible for the shoddy jobs their men are doing with levy collectors in Abia State against residents. I know that revenue collection is not one of security agents’ primary responsibilities,” advised Kufre, who identified himself as a university don.
It is certain that police and army would forever deny assigning any organisations or agencies in Abia State, their officers to assist them in revenue generation from residents, leading to many residents arrested, shot and injured in the process. In this regard, many residents are yet to understand proper what the former commissioner of police was saying.
“What is the commissioner talking about? Is he saying that his men are not involved in day to day tax collection in the state or is it when he sees their dead corpses in uniform before he accepts that obvious fact that Gov. Orji has run Abia State aground and now is chastising the people with horsewhip like the biblical Jeroboam?” asked an angry observer.
Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.