….ask Police to abide by court verdict
By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA– CIVIL Society Organisations, CSOs, under the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Transparency in Governance, CCSOTG, has urged Benue State Internal Revenue Service, BIRS, to commence operation in accordance with the judgement of the High Court in Makurdi, Benue State. The convener, CCSOTG, Comrade Sabo Ode, stated this in his address at the press conference.
Ode said the court’s verdict remains sacrosanct and serves as signpost of justice that allows BIRS to continue with its revenue generation duties, which the Nigerian Police Force stopped from doing what the laws of the State mandates it.
According to him CCSOTG has resolved to support BIRS to re-establish taxpayers’ confidence based on the court verdict with clear message that they are secured and BIRS will serve them better as they continue to pay their taxes with the use of pamphlets, billboards adverts, community theatre strategy, open-door advertisements on taxis and buses or any other means possible to ginger payment of tax to the agency in order to be free from shackles of financial strangulation.
Ode said: “The coalition of Nigerian Civil Society Groups has elected upon itself to defend actions which run against public interest and tend to repress social justice, fairness in governance and the common good in the leadership of the Nigerian masses. And we have ever remained constantly vigilant in keeping an eagle eye on the operations of the various tiers of government in any part of the country.
“While we girdled our loins to confront this nihilist approach to states revenue collection by the Police, Benue state headed to the courts to challenge the jurisdiction and audacity of the Police in issuing such orders. We suspended action to await the outcome of the court verdict on the matter, which has just been delivered by the High Court in Makurdi in favour of public interest.
“We therefore side with the clear verdict of the Presiding judge, Justice Adam Onum, that the police have no authority to issue such executive directives, which contravenes the validly passed laws of the Benue State House of Assembly or any other State Assembly in Nigeria.
“We hold this court verdict as very sacrosanct and the signpost of the triumph of good over evil for the Nigerian state. We enjoin the Police to tender a public apology to all states in the country affected by its unpopular order for the loss of revenue for the period the confrontation lasted.
“On this score, the coalition wishes to salute the courage and wisdom of the Benue State Board of Internal Revenue Service’s (BIRS) Executive Chairman, Chief Mrs Mimi Adzakpe- Orubibi, by challenging the controversial directive of the Police in court.
“BIRS got a judgment last week in its favour, as the Court declared the Police as incompetent in issuing such directive and restrained its agents from harassment, intimidation and disruption of lawful tax collection in any part of the state.”
“You will recall that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, in May 2017 inaugurated Police Special X-squad teams. They were specifically charged with the responsibility of arresting all tax revenue officials operating on federal roads across the nation.
“The IGP’s order was stern and enforced instantly. But we dare say, it led to avoidable confrontations with tax collectors and the Police in some states, including Benue, leading to the loss of critical revenues to states.”
However, the convener of the coalition called on the state government and the people to abide by the court’s judgment and asked the Police to withdraw its officers from all revenue checkpoints in the state and abide by the court’s verdict.
“In the case of Benue particularly, the police is pleaded to take steps in this direction by withdrawing its officers at revenue checkpoints without any further delay to enable the BIRS-Consultants immediately resume work in compliance
with the court order.
“The Nigerian Police Force, NPF, under the IGP, Mr. Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, a disciplined officer and strong advocate of the rule of law should not hesitate to concede to Benue state, her inalienable rights to freedom of revenue collection as directed by the Court”, he stated.