• We are not aware of any N1m Levy – Liquor license board

From John Adams Minna

After days of intrigue, controversy and denial over the ban on the sales and consumption of alcohol in Suleja local government area of Niger State, beer parlour operators in Suleja town, the headquarters of the council and it environs have been asked to pay N1million as Levy to enable them carry out their business.

Already a Taskforce for the collection of the N1million Levy has been put in place by the council and no fewer than 10 operators were said to have complied with the new directives by the council.

They have equally been given the go ahead to open their beer parlour for business while those who are yet to comply have been told not to operate.

This is coming barely few days after the Council Chairman Alhaji Isiyaku Bawa Naibi has vowed to enforce the ban on the sales and consumption of alcohol in his Council area.

But the secretary of the state liquor and license board, Mallam Ibrahim Mohammed while speaking with our correspondent in his office in Minna denied knowledge of any Levy being imposed on beer parlour operators in Suleja.

He pointed out that the board which is the regulatory body on the sales and consumption of alcohol in the state has not mandated any individual or group to collect any Levy from beer parlour operators on it behalf.

Mallam Ibrahim disclosed that procedures for the renewal of liquor license in the state has been that every operator pays the required fees directly to the designated bank and forward evidence of payment to board for an official receipt.

“The board is not aware of this N1million Levy and it has not mandated any individual or group to collect any Levy from beer parlour operators on it behalf”, he added.

However, the Taskforce, our correspondent reliable gathered, is headed by a former coordinator/monitor of the state liquor and license board, one Mr. Bash, popularly refers to as “Bash Intelligent”.

Although when contacted, Bash denied collecting money from any beer parlour operators in Suleja and it’s environs, adding that he parted with the state liquor and license board since 2022 as it’s monitor in charge of Suleja and since then he had no any dealing with the board or it activities.

Bash whole claimed to be a politician who campaign for the emergence of the state Governor Rt Hon. Umar Mohammed Bago in the 2023 election said he is not aware of any N1million Levy as this was a calculated attempt to Tanisha his image.

But one of the beer parlour operators who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity revealed that they were asked to bring N1million each to enable them operate, stressing that the money was being paid to the said Bash.

He disclosed they were asked to bring the money in cash as any electric payment was not allowed, saying that “we were not equally given any receipt as evidence of payment. We only gave the names of our beer parlour after payment and you are asked to go.

“As I speak with you now, (Friday evening) 10 operators have paid the N1million each to Bash and his group. I paid my own N1million in a popular eatery in Suleja because they called me to meet them there.

“They told us that they will no accept any bank transaction and that the money should be brought to them cash after which they will write the name of your beer parlour or hotel and asked you to go and open for business”, he added

Also another beer parlour operator who equally did not want his name in print because of victimization, confirmed the payment of the N1million Levy imposed on them but said he was yet to pay his own as he was still gathering the money.

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He however stated further that some of their members have refused to make the payment because of lack of evidence of payment and no issuance of receipt after payment.

Such members, he added are not allowed to operate until they meet the N1million demand.

When asked if there was any formal correspondence between the beer parlour operators and the local government or the state liquor and license board on the payment of the N1million, he said “no letter from the local government to that effect but we believe that the man in question is working closely with the council chairman.

“We are very familiar with him because he used to work with the liquor and license board in Suleja here. He usually collects liquor license fees on behalf of the board, so when he came and said the council said we should pay N1million Levy, people believed him.

“As we speak, the beer parlours that are operating right now are those that have paid their N1million Levy. That is the situation right now in Suleja here, we don’t know what to do”.

Recalled that the Chairman of the council, Alhaji Ishaku Bawa, had insisted that his council will continue to enforce the law banning the sales and consumption of beer and other related brewages in the area, saying that there is an existing law backing his decision.

The Chairman said his Council is merely enforcing an existing law which has been in operation before the coming of the present administration in the state and therefore vowed to enforce it within the ambit of the existing liquor law in the state.

According to him, the law banning the sales and consumption of alcohol in the state had been in existence since 2001 during administration of the late former governor of the state, Engineer Abdulkadir Kure, adding that “Suleja local government did not ban the sales of alcohol, the law banning sales of alcohol has being in existence before now.

“We are therefore only working within the ambit of the law and what we are saying is that, those selling alcohol should operate within the ambit of the law,” he said.

The Chairman position is contrary to that of the state Governor Umar Mohammed Bago who on the heels of the controversy sorrounding the ban on the sales of alcohol in Suleja said that the government has ordered ban on the sales and consumption of alcohol in any part of the state.

The Governor had a statement made it Categorically clear that the government did not order any ban on the sales and consumption of alcohol in the state as that was not the immediate priority of his administration.

The State Governor strongly denied that the Government has not imposed any ban on alcohol sales and consumption in any specific areas in the state, especially Suleja local government area as such decision will amount to a distraction to his administration’s renewed hope agenda.

The government dismissed as baseless such assertions, saying that the Governor never issued any directive nor ordered any of it agencies to enforce the ban of alcoholic drinks in any part of the state.

The governor further pointed out that the statement attributed to the Secretary of the Niger State Liquor and Licensing Board, Ibrahim Mohammed, did not emanate from the government, adding that no such board has been formed under his administration.

While Emphasizing the commitment of his administration to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights, including freedom of religion, the governor assures residents that such misleading information holds no merit in the policies of his government and therefore urged citizens to continue their lawful activities without undue concern.

“The public and media are urged to disregard such announcements and seek clarification from authorized government officials for accurate information”, the statement added.

All attempts to get the reaction of the Council Chairman on this development was not successful as his mobile phone number could not be reached as he put it on permanent busy.