A High Court sitting in Otor-Udu, Delta State has declared as illegal the collection of levies and taxes on roads across the state by revenue collection consultants.
The verdict of the court has provided respite for investors, industrialists, motorists, manufacturing and haulage companies in the state, who have been victims of illegal levies imposed on them by a revenue collection consultancy run by Mr. Solomon Okowa, younger brother of the state governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
The judgment was the outcome was that of a suit (No: OUHC/111/2016), filed by a Warri based human rights lawyer, Mr. Oghenejobor Ikimi, against Mr. Okowa and two others over the collection of Passenger’s Welfare Scheme Levy and daily Motorcycle and Tricycle Taxes from operators of motorcycles and tricycles in the state.
Delivering her judgment on Friday, the presiding judge, Justice C.E Achilefu, declared the collection of the Passenger’s Welfare Scheme Levy and daily Motorcycle and Tricycle Taxes as illegal and contrary to the provisions of Part II of the Schedule to the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, 2004 (as amended).
The presiding judge equally declared assessment and collection of taxes and levies by private tax agents, individuals or committees as illegal, ruling that such contravenes the provisions of Sections 2 (1), 3 and 4 of the Taxes and Levies (Approved list for collection) Act cap T2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 Amendment Order 2015.
The court also perpetually restrained the state government from further collecting the aforementioned taxes/levies, ruling that such amounts to a contravention of Part II of the Schedule of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, 2004 (as amended).
The state government was equally restrained from further collecting taxes and levies that are not listed in the schedule. In addition, the court declared that the Delta State cannot collect revenues not captured in the approved revenue collection list and consequently restrained the government-perpetually-from using private tax consultants for the assessment and collection of revenues.
The Delta State governor, through the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, had appointed his younger brother as a consultant for the collection of haulage fees from heavy duty trucks and vehicle operators in Delta North and Central senatorial districts. His letter of appointment by the ministry (Ref. No. MCI/PRS/2512/29), exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters, was dated 2 February 2017 and signed by S.O Opuware, Secretary, Ministerial Tenders Board.
"I am directed to inform you that the Hon. Commissioner of this ministry has approved the appointment of your company, Solo Integrated Conception Ltd. as consultants for the collection of haulage fees from heavy duty trucks and vehicle operators. You are expected to remit N500, 000 each on monthly basis to government account as per her share of the collections," the letter read in part.
Also hit by the judgment are two cronies of the governor, who were appointed as members of the task force on collection of N2,000 levy on every truck carrying granite in the state. The governor’s cronies were identified as Messrs. Sunny Nwaolokor and Akponwan. Their letter of appointment, also obtained by this website, was dated 24 May 2016 and signed by one Mr. O. Agunoye on behalf of the Commissioner of the Environment.
A senior staff of the Delta State Ministry of Commerce and Industries described the judgment as a victory of good over evil. According to the senior staff, Mr. Okowa’s younger brother successfully engineered the removal of Mr. Victor Omoniyi from his position as Director of Land Transport because the latter advocated that the government should stop engaging touts in its revenue collection activities.
"We are all aware that all juicy contracts in the state are awarded to Governor Okowa’s brothers, family members and cronies. Lawrence Osiegbu, who is handling Fast Track (CofC), is his cousin. Immediately Mr. Okowa became governor, some of his commissioners like Mr. John Nani of the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Directorate of Transport and Mrs. Mary Iyasere of Ministry of Commerce set up various revenue committees that are not backed by any law. Monies realized from these illegal ventures are not remitted to government coffers,” the Ministry of Commerce and Industries staff said.
A security officer, who did not want her name mentioned, told SaharaReporters that the activities of the governor’s younger brother are well known security authorities in the state, but they could not do anything about him and his touts whose operations are best described as crude.
The security officer listed the touts working for the governor’s younger brother as including Gabriel Obajere, Peter Enyen, Sunny Ikem, Abada, Phillip Uzogor, Sunny Nwaolokor, Felix Omatsola, Victor Ayoro, Solomon Ifeanyi, Dennis Onwuka, Theo Okocha Marshall, Clarkson London, Patrick Igborgbor, John Freeman, Akponwan, Ufuoma Jesse and Ogifo.
When contacted on the matter, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, claimed that the contracts were legal. According to him, the status of the governor’s younger brother as a consultant to the government makes him a government official. On that basis, he argued, he could not be considered as a private agent.