Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 18 April 2018 | 1,671 times
The Anambra State Government has announced the indefinite suspension of revenue collection in all the 63 markets in the state. This follows the discovery of the alleged diversion of government revenue by some market leaders in the state.
Information has it that the issue of revenue diversion, which has been on for many years, got to intolerable level during the November 2017 governorship election campaigns in the state.
Many market leaders were said to have carted away funds meant for the state due to lack of supervision.
The development subsequently led to the arrest of the leader of Uga market, Mr. Victor Ezeibekwe, last week by the Department of State Service (DSS) on the invitation of the Commissioner for Trade, Commerce, Markets and Wealth Creation, Dr Christian Mmadubuko.
Speaking to journalists on the issue on Tuesday, the Commissioner said the State Government had to suspend revenue collection in all the markets indefinitely to enable it evolve proper ways of ensuring that government revenues were not diverted by those entrusted to assist in shoring up revenue in the state.
He said: “We are having challenges in some of our markets. Some people collect money from the traders and refuse to remit such monies into government offers. There was a standing instruction that once they collect money, such monies should be paid into the bank and then come to the ministry with the bank teller, which is the normal thing to do.
“But reverse has been the case. This Chairman of Oye Uga Market, for instance, adopted another strategy, whereby he uses fake receipts which he issues to people after payment. When I interrogated him, he tried to be smart.
“We had to invite the DSS and we expect him to tell them the truth. Time had gone when people collected government revenues and diverted same. I believe that after investigation, we will actually know what happened. We want to warn other people doing the same thing that it is no longer business as usual.
“Because of what has been happening, we have designed a holistic approach on how to solve this problem once and for all. We have made announcements in the media to suspend all payments in all the markets in the state until further notice. We also ask all those collecting money for government in all the markets to come forward. There is no exclusion.
“Those who have collection permits from the government should refer to the ministry to know what else to do. We want to ascertain those authorised to collect government revenues in our markets and not all manner of people collecting money from all angles.
“From our investigations, this has been going on for a long time. The State Government is very serious about it and we will deal ruthlessly with anybody involved in the fraud because it is the money which government generates from the market that we use to solve some of the problems, but it seems that some of our people are making it difficult for government to generate such revenues. That is not what it should be.”
Ezeibekwe, who said he had to buy the receipt booklet because traders refused to pay if they were not given receipts, recalled that last year they were invited to the ministry to obtain authority for the collection of business revenue premises.
He added: “When we asked for receipts, they said we should collect and pay into the bank. So when people refused to pay if they were not issued receipts, we printed receipt booklet and started using it to collect money.
“Again when we wanted to pay in the money, we were asked to wait. After the governorship election of November last year, we still came for the receipt and the director of markets gave us authority. Up till now, government has not given us any official receipt.”
On her part, the Director of Markets in the Ministry, Mrs. Ebo Nwosu, said: “What we use is Integrated Pay Direct System, which all market leaders have been intimated with.
“We do not collect cash and nobody is permitted to collect cash in any way. Even the market leaders are not permitted to withhold any cash, but to pay into the bank once they collect from traders and present the teller to us.
“However, many market leaders have been complaining that some traders are reluctant to pay and are asking for more time.
“The governor had held a meeting with the market leaders on the need to be remitting government revenues appropriately. But we are happy that the present commissioner is handling the issue with dispatch and we believe his action will help to improve government revenue.”
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