Traders at Ngwa Road Market (Ahia-Ohuru) in Aba South Local Government Area, Abia State have pleaded with Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to intervene in the incessant harassment by personnel of the state Board of Internal Revenue (BIR).
The traders who came in their numbers to make complaint told our correspondent that for some months now, personnel of the BIR in conjunction with Abia State Vigilante Group have been ripping off many traders with unapproved levies.
The traders said that all their efforts to bring the market leadership to intervene on the matter have proved abortive, giving them the impression that the market leadership is working in connivance with the BIR personnel.
The traders lamented that despite the directive of an Abia State High Court that only Government approved levies should be collected, the BIR in connivance with the market leaders and Vigilante Group are intimidating people collecting illegal levies from them.
It was gathered that Ngwa Road Market traders had on October 18, 2017, taken Abia State government to court and joined the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Solid Minerals and Environment and the Aba South Local Government Chairman over exorbitant levies and imposition of what they termed illegal taxes.
Abia government sometime in 2019 announced that every payment to be made in form of revenue collection in all the markets have been brought under one unique amount of N18,000 termed consolidated revenue.
However, the traders said that the ongoing forceful collection of N6,700 by a group that claimed that they got authorization from the state government is something the Governor should intervene and stop because such a group is giving a negative image to the state government.
“Our Governor loves traders. We know he’s not aware of this and that is why we need to reach him through this medium.
“We have tried going through the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Investment since we don’t have a Commissioner for that Ministry, but the matter is getting worst.
“Just last week, they came to Line-18, picked up innocent traders with the help of Abia Vigilante Group and dumped them at Aba CPS.
“After investigations, the police discover that they did nothing and left them. For three weeks now, nobody has had peace.
“These people are not from Government because we know Government asked us to pay N18,000, but this illegal N6,7000 they’re collecting is not even part of the approved N18,000,” Aloysius Amandianaeze, a trader said
Another trader, Obi Kenneth said that the BIR officials began the collection of the illegal levies from traders who are not aware of the ongoing legal battle only for them to come out boldly when they discovered that their intimidation was working out perfectly.
“They are currently bringing all manner of notices, sealing peoples shops claiming that the state government authorized them.
“They even threatened to kill some traders recently claiming that some of those traders were the ones making others not to cooperate in paying them the illegal levies.
“This market they’re collecting this illegal levies is currently under construction. Line1-3 has been demolished. Who knows the next line, yet these people are busy collecting levies recklessly.
“They are led by one my called Peter and Bright who said they’re staff of Abia Board of Internal Revenue.
“We plead with the Governor to call the leadership of the Ngwa Road Market and asked them what’s happening because they’re collecting these monies even without a receipt.
“They’re killing our businesses. We don’t even know what this N6,700 is meant for. They claim their money is N5,700 while the penalty for not paying early is N1000.
“They are alleging they bought the contract from Abia State Government and no court can stop them. We know our Governor and he can’t approve such. So we beg him to save us.”