• Four arrested, refund N111m already, may arrest more •Tomorrow’s Electromat election must hold•
From NNAMDI OSALEKOA in Awka•
Following the recent discovery of what could have been a decades-old multi-billion Naira revenue fraud by its various market leaders all over the state; the Anambra State Government has commenced rounding up of the suspects.
Already one of them has refunded One hundred and ten million naira (N110m) to the state government and more were making frantic efforts to refund huge sums of money they had stolen in revenue and stallage fees collection.
While another has refunded about five hundred thousand Naira from a local Oye Uga market, Aguata LGA. Yet another group who had been spontaneously illegally and unlawfully blocking the Federal Highway at different location that catches their fancy on any day and time was caught by him personally at Awkuzu junction where they used spikes to fleece unsuspecting motorists of huge sums of money especially visiting persons, traders and trucks coming to Anambra state.
The State’s Commissioner made these and other scathing disclosures for Commerce and Industry, Dr Christian Madubuko in an exclusive interview in his office yesterday. He put the total amount lost by the state government from this dubious practice at above three hundred million Naira (N300m) annually.
The persistence of the sleazy deals that apparently had been dubiously institutionalized in the revenue collection system of the state and its magnitude, he added may have the imprimatur of some well heeled state government officials who have embedded stealing in the system for years and are now unquestionably rattled. The market leaders were found to have over the years forged state revenue receipts and other relevant documents that they readily pass off as that of the state government and had been operating with them.
Most of them have now been arrested while more would be rounded up soon, for proper investigation and further interrogation to unravel the scope, amount involved and those involved, Madubuko assured.
He said he was very committed to unmasking the perpetrators and end the menace as the various security agencies are currently on their trail with a view to rounding up more suspects.
He narrated a personal experience with the illegal revenue collectors which had on that fateful day attracted a conglomeration of the Federal Road Safety Marshals and officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the state Police Command when the aggrieved tanker drivers used their long articulated vehicles to block the Enugu-Onitsha dual carriage way at the Awkuzu junction in an effort to attract attention to the menace of the highhandedness of the overbearing ‘state revenue agents’.
He said he coincidentally ran into them and was so shocked to hear that the so-called agents had demanded and collected four hundred thousand Naira from a particular the motorist.
On closer interrogation and scrutiny it was discovered the perpetrators were neither agents of the state government nor were ever issued with any contract to so operate. But were found to have written and issued themselves fake/forged appointment letters with which their had for years been running round the state harassing, intimidating, brutalizing and collecting huge sums from unsuspecting members of the public and tarnishing the name of the state. Two of the suspects who were arrested ‘on duty’, according to the commissioner would soon be charged to court as soon as investigations were concluded. They have refunded the N400,000 to the truck drivers.
The Commissioner also emphasized that the scheduled election for the Electronics Market (Electromak) to choose their new executives shall hold as planned this (Saturday) morning at the usual venue. He disabused the minds of those suspecting he was rooting for a particular candidate, saying the state government was only committed to a free and fair election devoid of any rancour and bitterness.
He warned those coming to his office with a view to compromise him or his officials to desist or he would hand them over to the security operatives and make their identities public.
Dr Madubuko lamented a situation where the traders agitated for a Caretaker leadership whereas the government insisted on allowing larger body of all traders in each particular market choose their leaders. For instance, he named some stakeholders in the Electromark as the bane of the leadership crisis there, who had made it impossible for a free and fair election to be organized on three occasions through various antics. But that today’s election must hold as earlier planned.
He therefore urged all the relevant and bonafide traders in the market to turn up today to cast their votes in the quest for a new popular leadership in the market. That he personally has no shop in the market other than that his duty as the Commissioner, overseer and supervisor of the conducive environment for smooth Commerce and Industry businesses and stakeholders in the state.
Madubuko, an experienced leader of men even from his university days where he was President of the Student Union Government (SUG) said Gov Willie Obiano meant well for traders in the state, and urged cooperation of all stakeholders.