By Wilson Ruvwoghor
For the cheerleaders fasting and praying for God’s blessings upon him, let-me-tell-you-something. Ben Ayade didn’t have to duplicate tax managers in Cross Rivers in the name of checking extortion against vulnerable Cross Rivers petty traders and artisans.
As a colleague highlighted, it is hard to imagine that Ayade (PHD) who has made governance an acting series cannot differentiate tax that is backed by law from extortion that is illegal in all ramifications. It is also inciting that a Professor Governor doesn’t know he cannot declare tax exemption by fiat without legislative seal.
By Ayade’s latest Nollywood short drama, not only are those extorting illegal levies from the helpless victims in Cross Rivers not faceless, not a few are known to him, including officeholders he appointed.
Cross Rivers laws, with the state revenue board as enforcing authority, should have enough consequence action against fake tax collectors or touts intimidating the vulnerable victims. If the right sanctions are applied against those caught in the act, the criminality stops.
Gratifying Cross Rivers “Men Of God” with engagement as “Anti-Tax Agency”, a meaningless conjecture, unknown to tax lexicon, is a misnomer, duplication of duty and expenditure, so wasteful, retrogressive to state building.
Duplicating duties has no known records of having been a positive, result oriented leadership or management style. It only breeds conflicts of interests, wastage, negligence of duty among other negativities as a few instances could here would prove.
Federal Government (FG) once felt the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) Department of the Police, originally charged with general traffic management, has failed in discharging its mandate.
Rather that rejig it with more qualified men and advanced material resources including digitalization of operations with modern gadgets, FG, without scrapping the VIO, duplicated the agency with Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), with a cheering crowd condemning the former as a having become a gang of corrupt bribe takers.
Today, working, many times, in conflict of interests with the traffic wardens and the VIOs, the FRSC has also been widely seen as corrupted by bribe taking officers on our highways and major cities. Don’t ask for proof, testimonies abound on naira changing hands on FRSC checkpoints.
Through its Downstream Unit, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the nation’s apex oil industry regulator, had the statutory mandate to, beyond regulating products prices, check quality assurance of petrol, diesel and kerosene sold in filling stations or by smaller retailers across the country.
Like Ayade, rather check the bad eggs in the DPR, FG stripped DPR of price regulation duty and handed it to political patronage agency, Petroleum Products Prices Regulatory Agency (PPPRA). Rather than sanitise the system, PPPRA has been chief mastermind of fuel price adjustment, more often on upward review.
Under PPPRA, fuel importers under a deregulated downstream have also been smiling to the banks playing import scams on government. With key functions chopped off and handed to political appointees in the garb of PPPRA, DPR got more negligent on tracking quality assurance on all manner of fuel important from all corners of the globe.
As the nation’s apex oil and gas industry regulator, no other body was better statutorily positioned to regulate oil spills management than DPR’s Upstream Unit. Again rather than deal with willful inefficiency that compromises standards in DPR, FG duplicated the apex regulator’s spill function and handed same to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).
Today, like redundant DPR, NOSDRA never responds to spills as prompt as the law mandated it. It turns deaf ears when impacted communities are quick to raise alarms. NOSDRA management sits in the comfort of their offices and wait for the polluter (affected facility owner) to provide logistics -vehicles, helicopters, boats, even PPEs and food, before accepting to go for Joint Investigation Visits in tacit compromise of standards and conscience of its men to regulate justly. Today, there are increasingly more spills conflict unresolved under NOSDRA than when only DPR was in charge.
The lessons are that the gullible must stop crying along with Ayade whenever he sheds his crocodile tears. Those Ayade calls illegal tax collectors are are touts, many political thugs during elections. What he says they are collecting are not taxes, not even approved levies. They are fabricated levies forced on helpless artisans and petty traders.
They victims don’t even need exemption, by do good Ayade, from non existent taxes.
What is needed to deal with touts robbing from the daily incomes of Cross Rivers petty traders and artisans is sheer law enforcement by the police and the courts, not a patronising Anti-Tax Agency of holier-than-thou men of God. If Ayade wants to gratify the clerics, the familiar directions are sponsorship to pilgrimages, appointment into the pilgrims board or maybe soft contracts. Not heeding this passionate advice is mockery of governance taken too far.
Wilson Ruvwoghor writes from Ughelli, Delta state.