By Sunny Ikhioya
SOMETIMES when you ask people to do something specific, they most often do it the way they like. That is how it is with some government ministries and agencies. The Delta State government has of recent created different bodies for the purpose of raising revenues.
Some of these bodies have instead resorted to doing things their own way for personal benefits.In fact, the operations of some of them are largely illegal.
With operatives made up mostly of area boys and criminals, they can at best be described as plain impersonators as they take advantage of the prevailing loose situation to dupe innocent victims. And more often than not, they are quick to go physical when you try to resist them.
Thank God for the intervention of friends in government, my recent encounter with one of them would have been a different story. The lesson I learned from this experience is that many of us do not know how government works; so when we see people operating under the guise of government to perpetrate illegality, we assume that it is normal and that leaves you with no option than to form a negative opinion.
Many of us do not care but we love to run commentaries at different forums, comments that do not go far enough to effect the right changes. Within your locality there is a representative of government who is appointed to bring you closer to government; your first task is to identify who these ones are.
Let me narrate to you my story. Sometime in July, this year, four hefty men visited a table water producing company that I am associated with, along the NPA- Ekpan expressway in Warri. They claimed to be contractors of the waste management board on a mission to carry out inspection of our premises, with a long checklist.
They said the inspection will cost us N30,000. That immediately put us on alert as the genuine ones from government will not ask for money; they will only identify your shortcomings and give you a time frame to put things right; it is only when you fail to do the needful that the fines will be imposed.
We know NAFDAC, SON, local government health officials and others and we have a duly registered company approved by government, doing the monthly disposal of our waste and we make payments regularly. So why should this be different?
And because we refused to ‘play ball’ with them,they started subjecting us to intimidation by way of threats. They were told that we were already registered with one of the officially approved waste disposal companies and are regularly paying the waste disposal monthly dues; but they refused to leave us alone.
Finally, they managed to procure a summon from a mobile court – imagine that – , in Enerhen, Warri, asking us to report in less than two days. We made inquiries and were astounded to discover how these mobile courts are being used to extort money from innocent concerns: you are not allowed the niceties of due legal processes; in most of cases you are charged, found guilty and fined on the spot.
We consulted our lawyer who got in touch with the contact number written at the back of the court paper and it turned out to be the Consultant to the waste management board in charge of the Delta Central area. They negotiated and the lawyer relayed the content of the discussion back to me; we do not have to go to the court any longer if I agree to the settlement terms.
Incidentally, my brother, Wilson Eseoghene Ikhioya, commandant of a paramilitary guard PMG, a non-government youth organisation, called his friend Comrade Hope George, a senior special adviser to the governor of Delta State.
Hope George called me and gave me the number of the representative of Warri South on the board, Mr Mofe Edema, who told me that the area falls outside his jurisdiction but gave me the number of his colleague representing Delta Central, Sir Ejiro Okodafe. I subsequently called Comrade Ejiro who picked my call at the first ring and we set an appointed time to meet.
At the same time, I put a call to my Warri Alder’s Town brother, Solomon Ighrakpata, Deputy Chief Whip of the state House of Assembly, who also called Comrade Ejiro and the issue was resolved.
It is heart-warming to see politicians answering your call at the first ring, even when you have not met with them before hand. Sir Ejiro Okodafe, Ighrakpata, Hope George and Mofe Edema must be commended for the manner they presented government’s interests. It is within the right of government to collect legitimate revenues and taxes; even such fines are contestable when a citizen or business concern feels that his right is being abused or taken for granted.
Again, why take a duly registered business concern with known address to a mobile court? It should not also be through the instrument of thuggery like we witnessed with this contractor. Why send untrained people to inspect a specialized industrial concern? How will you be perceived by so doing?
It is also important for government to adequately sensitise the people before sending agents out to meet with them. It is no longer news that many fake agents are prowling around, looking for people to extort; there must be a clear way to separate the fakes from the genuine. If possible, make contact numbers available for the people to verify.
We are also made to understand that most of these contractors are party members, who are getting these jobs as compensation for services rendered to the party, but, such should not be done to the detriment of businesses.
It is increasingly becoming difficult to do business because of the activities of these fake government agents and area boys. Government must look into this; businesses thrive on very friendly environments; when you create such, people are happy to pay taxes, not the other way round; create the right environment and enjoy reciprocal cooperation from the citizens.
Not everyone has access to people in government; there is need to create a level playing ground for everyone. Make the people to understand what you are doing through sensitisation, advocacy and propaganda, while at the same time, creating the right environment for businesses to thrive.
In summary, it is important for the people to know their representative in government who will channel their grievances to the right quarters.
Every constituency has at least two or three government representatives at local, state and federal levels; when you meet with them, they will take up your case, like those in Delta State did in my situation. The government, on the other hand, must make its programmes more transparent.
Ikhioya wrote via www.southsouthecho.com