By Simon Adewale
The Executive Chairman of the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR), Hon. Joel Onowakpo, has appealed to the state judiciary for the speedy trial of tax-related cases in order to send very strong signals to defaulters.
Onowakpo stated this when he, the Board members and directors of BIR, led by the stateÂ commissioner of finance, Hon.Â George Orogun, represented by his Permanent Secretary, Reginald Bayoko, paid the state Chief Judge, Justice Roseline Bozimo, a courtesy visit in her office.
Noting that the Board had carried out a lot of reforms since his assumption of office, Onowakpo disclosed that all tax monitoring audit and investigation assignments, suspended when he and his board members assumed duty in July 2009 had resumed. According to him,Â with the new arrangement, tax defaulters are in for a tough time.
He explained that the suspension was to provide a conducive environment for tax administration and collection, addingÂ that the audit, legal and enforcement departments of BIR had been centralised for efficient service delivery and to avoid duplication. Based on the reorganisation, he said the Board wasÂ well-positioned to deal withÂ tax evasion and it would bring the full weight of the law to bear onÂ defaulters. HeÂ appealed to the head of the judicial arm of government to assist by giving revenue matters the urgency they deserve as well as ensuring quick dispensation of justice even if it meant creating additional revenue courts to show defaulters that there was no hiding place for them and that it was no longer business as usual.
Onowakpo told the CJ: â€œYour support is critical to our success because as soon as we embark on all these processes (of tax audit, monitoring and investigation), we will encounter a lot of challenges. These will be in the form of professional colleagues who have devised the strategy of writing lengthy letters in the name of objection and thereby delaying the process and even going to court trying to take advantage of the slow legal process to delay or totally avoid the payment of taxes.â€
The Revenue Board boss citedÂ road works in the state, construction of an airport in Asaba, reactivation ofÂ seaports, beautification of cities, construction of a new Government House as well as the peace and security now being enjoyed by Deltans as positive achievements of the Uduaghan Administration, and many more others that will come as a result of increased funds from taxes and other internally-generated revenues.
Noting that the Board under his leadership was open and accessble, Onowakpo assured that the organisation was not out just to intimidate tax payers but to partner with them.
The CJ,Â Bozimo, threw her weight behind the Boardâ€™s Guest and promised to strengthen the existing eightÂ revenue courts and create threeÂ new ones, even as she expressed the desire to ensure that each of the 25 LGAs getsÂ the benefits of the specialised court to aid the Uduaghan administration on the continuation of its good works to the people.