By Abuchi Onwumelu
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Anambra State Revenue Service AiRS, Dr David Nzekwu, at the Revenue House, Awka, through the Taxpayer Education and Enlightenment Team, TEET, AiRS office, warned those he described as unauthorised revenue agents to desist forthwith or face the full weight of the law.
The AiRS boss, who gave the warning at his office in Awka during a review of the tax situation in the state between 2019 and 2021, said that individuals in the state owed the state government over 70 billoin Naira.
He Identified associations, unions and other groups, as the cankerworms stealing government revenues.
Nzekwu alleged that groups like tippers association, market unions and a host of other contraptions, ganged up in the guise of collecting revenues for the government but in reality siphoned internally generated revenues government would have judiciously deployed to provide basic amenities like roads and other public infrastructure.
He said people complained bitterly about the absence of social amenities in their domains but blatantly refused to carry out basic civic responsibility of paying taxes and levies to enable government to exercise social security schemes for the citizenry.
Nzekwu said it was worrisome that Onitsha, Awka and other places across Anambra did not pay taxes and that people were owing government over 70 billion Naira at the moment.
The Anambra Internal Revenue Service boss said that different groups formed themselves as associations to control the revenue of the state and that revenue theft seemed to be situated in the markets where a group of persons called leaders ascribed government revenue officials to themselves and collected money from traders, shop owners and many others, only to defraud the state government.
According to him, Ose, one of the markets in Onitsha, contributed about 17 million Naira to the state’s coffers in 2020, while Main Market Onitsha generated about 58 million Naira last year, which, he said, were a far cry from what both markets and other markets across the state should have generated as IGR.
He stressed that the influence of market associations, landlord associations, petroleum dealers associations and a host of other associations, had drastically affected revenue collections in Anambra state.
He emphasized that revenue collection did not deal with associations but the statutory responsibility of the board of Internal Revenue Service as provided in the law enacted by the state legislature.
Although he pointed out that the agency had challenges in managing illegal collections on the roads and that no individual was authorized to arrogate to himself revenue collector on behalf of the state government, except the Board of Internal Revenue, he said the names of tax collection agents were published by the agency to enable members of the public to know as well as identify those authorized to handle revenues on behalf of government.
Nzekwu therefore reiterated the fact that the Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue did not work with associations and unions but instead encouraged tax payers to individually go to the bank to make payments directly to the government coffers, using their ANCID numbers to avoid being defrauded by impostors and impersonators masquerading as government tax collection representatives.
He said, ‘We have had cases where staff of the agency are coming, not to collect taxes, but to serve demand notices and they were molested. That is unacceptable. People need to be aware that there is a serious punishment for obstructing the revenue officer from performing his or her duty. There is no need for people to beat up our staff because they are doing their job.’
The revenue boss however noted that Anambra State could exist without federal allocations if the citizens paid their taxes and levies. He said government could realize over N100 billion to run the affairs of the state, adding that the revenue target for the year 2021 was N36 billion, while the benchmark for last year was N26 billion.