• Get caught, lose your job, CP warns
From CHUKS ONUOHA, Umuahia
Some policemen in Abia State have jettisoned their constitutional duties. Instead of fighting crime and enforcing the law, they now go about with tax and revenue collectors in the state. And their bosses aren’t happy with such unedifying preoccupation.
The Commissioner of Police, Abia State Command, Mr. Ambrose Aisabor, has threatened to deal with any officer or policeman that has turned himself into a tax collector. In a chat with the reporter 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.
In recent times, Abia towns and villages have been virtually invaded by scores of consultants who claim they were appointed by the state government as revenue collectors. Such consultants go about with armed policemen and military men.
Wearing a mean, hostile mien, the policemen harass, embarrass, physically assault and arrest Abia residents while claiming to be collecting tax for the government. All hell was let loose in Umuahia penultimate Wednesday when a group of revenue collectors and tax agents, accompanied by police officers, stormed the Aba Road office of a furniture maker (names withheld by us.) The man was not in the shop, but his wife was. The police officers manhandled the woman and took her to the station.
There have been other occasions when tax agents, alongside their police guards, would assault residents in the full glare of their neighbours. When the appropriate government officials were contacted, they usually denied the existence of such persons. But Aisabor told our correspondent that 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.
The police boss noted that such an act had given the police a bad name, adding that the police had become the number one agency that falls prey to blackmail. He warned that the police would never succumb to any blackmail. “You will agree with me that, as of today, the Nigeria Police is undergoing a lot of transformation.
The policemen you saw in Abia few years ago, especially in Aba, are no longer seen there today. If any policeman is reported for any criminal act, he is easily shown the way out. You will not see criminals in the rank and file of the Nigeria Police Force today. If other organizations are behaving like the police, there will not be any problem in this country,” the police boss said. Aisabor said he had been cautioning his men to desist from such act. “I have spoken to my DPOs, my officers and men that they are not revenue collectors. Revenue collection is not one of our primary responsibilities.
No organization or agency, whether private or public, can come to us to give them policemen to assist them in collecting revenue and I won’t tell them that it is not the duty of the police to collect revenue. I have received so many applications, but I always turn them down on the ground that it is not our primary responsibility.” He said that he was aware of the state government’s appointment of revenue consultants, but said he would not allow his men to be going up and down with the tax collectors. “I know that the state government appointed revenue consultants to be collecting revenue on its behalf. I am aware of that one.
In fact, we were duly informed but we were not told to be giving them policemen to be going up and down wherever they are going to. That is not our mandate. “ In fact, 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. You know, in everything in Nigeria, the tendency is to always to blame the police; the police is always the weeping child.
The police is the easiest fallout of any blackmail. But we will not succumb to any blackmail by any person. “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.
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. “I am using this medium to tell the people of Abia State that policemen are not revenue collectors. If there is an organ that is responsible for revenue collection, they should follow due process.
If any person fails to pay his or her tax, there is a law court. Take that person to court and the court will give a judgment. And if by that judgment, the court asks the police to perform a particular duty, we are bound to carry out the judgment of the court.”