•As facts emerge that DTHA stopped motorcycle welfare ticket scheme in 2011
•COMTOA must account for allegedly looted funds — NACTOMORAS
By Emma Amaize
WARRI — THE bitter war between the National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association, NACTOMORAS, and the Commercial Motorcycle and Tricycles Operators Association, COMTOA, Delta State, exacerbated, weekend, with a revelation that the Delta State House of Assembly, had since July 2011, ordered a discontinuation of commercial motorcycle welfare ticket scheme, the cause of disagreement between the rival groups.
In the vote of proceedings of the Fifth Assembly, the Delta State House of Assembly, DTHA, on July 21, 2011, resolved among other things: “That the so-called Commercial Motorcyclist Welfare Ticket Scheme is hereby discontinued until a proper mode of payment and collection is agreed and worked out by the only recognized revenue body- the Board of Internal Revenue.”
Why we don’t want to associate with COMTOA: The fresh bombshell came as NACTOMORAS, in a statement, weekend, reiterated its stand that officials of COMTOA had since 2009 when the association was formed, in connivance with officials of the Directorate of Transport, Asaba, “looted, embezzled and laundered several billions of naira from proceeds realized from the motorcycle and tricycle daily welfare ticket, which rose from N20 per day to N70 for motorcycles and N150 per day to N250 per day and later N150 per day for tricycles.”
State secretary, Abenego Awha, who dismissed COMTOA’s denial of alleged plot to murder Oghenejabor Ikimi, its solicitor, who had petitioned the Inspector General of Police over the threat to his life, urged it to account for the money allegedly looted from the scheme.
Septic tank of sleaze: Pointing out that NACTOMORAS is a registered association with offices in the 36 states of the federation, it said the group rebuffed all attempts by officials of the Directorate of Transport to coalesce it with COMTOA, as the body was a cesspool of corruption.
On the allegation that Oghenejabor Ikimi was merely bullying COMTOA, the group said, “We make bold to state that NACTOMORAS on October 7, 2016 engaged the legal services of Oghenejabor Ikimi, Esq., of Ikimi Oghenejabor & Co., to write a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the looting, embezzlement and laundering of several billions of naira from the Tricycle & Motorcycle Welfare Ticket Fund set up by the Delta State Government since September 2009.
“The said petition was not directed against officials of COMTOA alone, but also against some past and present officials of the Directorate of Transport and past executives of the Delta State Motorcyclist Welfare Caretaker Committee. Pursuant to the above, EFCC invited several persons, including some officials of COMTOA and some officials of Directorate of Transport and the past executives of the Delta State Motorcyclist Welfare Caretaker Committee after it had frozen the bank account of COMTOA.
“Rather than honour the above invitation of the EFCC) the officials of COMTOA went into hiding from where they commenced a fundamental rights proceedings suit against the anti-graft a NACTOMORAS and the anti-graft agency.”
Transport ministry/ COMTOA MoU: NDV findings showed that in April 2016, the Ministry of Transport, acting on behalf of the Delta State government, apparently in the dark about the resolution of the House of Assembly, five years earlier, on COMTOA, entered into a consulting agreement with the registered trustees of the association to collect daily operating fees through sale of tickets from motor cycle and tricycle riders in the state, and remit all fees collected into designated government treasury account. The agreement was signed by the Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Vincent Uduaghan, Attorney General of the state, Hon Peter Mrakpor and top officials of COMTOA.
What DTHA tried to avoid: The House of Assembly directed that “there must be proper sensitization of all Deltans about what government plans to introduce so as to prevent unwarranted reactions,” which from available indications was not followed, as NACTOMORAS had kept kicking before and after the agreement was signed on the mode of payment. Also, the resolution by the House that “the Board of Internal Revenue and Local Government Councils in the state should streamline activities of commercial motorcycles riders so as to maintain law and order” was made ineffective with the transfer of the authority to COMTOA.
COMTOA reacts, Assembly’s mediation to ease tension: Public Relations Officer, COMTOA, Ochuko Johnson, reacting to the fresh attack, said: “My response is that NACTOMORAS is in court challenging the right of the government on the illegality of the contractual memorandum between the government and COMTOA. Why litigate the issue in the court of public opinion and on the pages of newspapers? Have they lost confidence in the courts?
“We also believe that the House of Assembly in Delta State is accessible to everyone, including your news medium. I challenge you to visit them to find out what they resolved at the time. The Assembly stepped in to temporarily suspend operations of the union at that time because of the unease and tension.
Amongst the then fractious factional unions at the time that had the capacity to degenerate to full blown crisis.”
“If NACTOMORAS believes that the government has acted illegally by appointing the union as a consultant for the collection of the dues from the commercial operators of tricycle and motorcycle, they should pursue their case in court, rather than resort to name calling, character assassination and blackmail.
“Please advise them to get a copy of the Delta State law Cap M7 ‘Protective Helmet Use Law’ and Edict No 3 of 1997 Commercial Motorcycles Uses Act,’ all of which are legislations of the state. We await them in court and will not join issues with them on the pages of newspapers,” he stated.
Director of Transport unauthorized to print tickets
However, Ikimi, who also spoke to NDV on said resolution admitted: “The resolutions of the Delta State House of Assembly like every other legislative assembly world over are persuasive on the executive arm of government.
“However, what we are pontificating here is that under section 7 of the state Motorcycle law, a daily fee of N15 per motorcycle is prescribed as daily permit. The above fee under the law is assessed and collected by the state Board of Internal Revenue only. The Commissioner for Finance is the only authority that can authorize an increment via a gazette of the above fee.
“To my knowledge, the above law has not been amended to include commercial tricycles or has the commissioner ordered any increment till date. The above law did not empower the Directorate of Transport of COMTOA to assess, collect and print daily permit tickets or welfare tickets,” he said.
Irresponsible exhibition of executive power
The legal practitioner added: “As a matter of law, section 2 (i) of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, 2004, private individuals and bodies are barred from assessing and collecting taxes and levies. Section 3 of the same law prescribes a fine of N50, 000 or an imprisonment of three years or both as punishment. The appointment of COMTOA as a tax consultant is illegal.”
He insisted: “The issuance and printing of permit tickets by officials of the Directorate of Transport is illegal as the state Board of Internal Revenue is the only body empowered by law to assess and collect taxes and levies in the state. What is playing out at the moment in the state is reckless display of executive power by the state government.”