Multiple Taxation Citizens Bleed: As FCT Engages Touts To Extort Individuals

Multiple Taxation Citizens Bleed: As FCT Engages Touts To Extort Individuals
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ABDUL LATEEF BAMGBOSE

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello has been accused of ceding the management of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) to groups and individuals under the guise of generating revenue for the ministry, AljazirahNigeria investigation has revealed that since the minister took over the administration of the FCT, it has been a free reign of terror by revenue collection agents in the territory.

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Earlier in the month, a group of Civil Society Organisation, CSO, had accused the minister of nepotism, 14 months after his failure to appoint a Director of Treasury, DOT, for the Treasury department of the FCTA.

Indications of a palpable tension within the ranks of directors in the FCTA over appointment of the next DoT, came to light when a director visited the National Assembly to voice his frustration with delay in the appointment of mandate secretaries to oversee various Secretariats since the minister resumed for the second tenure last November.

This is just as the minister has said he has no preferred candidate in whatever position there is to be filled in the administration, saying that every qualified person would be given a fair opportunity to emerge.

AljazirahNigeria also gathered that directors in the FCTA have vowed to resist an alleged attempt by the minister to favour a less qualified candidate for the position.

One of the directors who visited the National Assembly to intimate members of the committees on FCT, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, alleged that there is an attempt by the minister to appoint one of the directors in the treasury department, Mr. Damboa Malum.

Malum was said to have been promoted to the position of director in 2018, with over 16 other directors who were promoted to the directorate cadre long before him, but are allegedly been sidelined, a development they said is unsettling the department.

According to the director, whose name was not given, the minister had allegedly hinted that the next director would be appointed after a selection examination for the directors in the department.

He however, said some competent accountants who are on the directorate cadre and qualified for the position would decline participation in the planned exam, citing obvious bias.

According to him, the directors question the integrity of the said examination, alleging that Damboa may be unduly favoured as the ‘minister’s candidate’.

 “Damboa boasted severally to his family and friends that he has been assured by the minister that he is going to be appointed even though he’s not the most senior,” he alleged.

The director further explained that the planned selection examination for candidates jostling for the position was against the convention of appointing the most senior and qualified director from the department.

He also alleged that the minister deliberately refused to confirm the appointment of the immediate past director, FCT Treasury, Alhaji Salawu Adigun, who retired recently so as to prevent him (Adigun) from exercising the full powers of the director of treasury until his preferred candidate is appointed.

“When Alhaji Isyaku Ismaila retired as the director, FCT Treasury in March 2020, Alhaji Salawu Adigun Lawal took over from him without full powers of a director treasury. However, he also retired July without anyone replacing him. This is unprecedented in the history of FCTA,” he stated.

He also said that President Muhammadu Buhari had since approved names to be announced as mandate secretaries but the minister is yet to release the list.

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This according to director has concentrated approval for various projects in the hands of the minister and hindered the pace of activities in the FCTA.

Interestingly, The Citizen Awareness against Corruption and Social Vises (CAACASVI), had called for the appointment of a substantive Director of Treasury in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).

Mr. Olumuyiwa Onlede, Executive Director of CAACASVI in a statement in Abuja, said this was necessary to engender efficiency and accountability in the FCTA.

He noted that the office of the Director of Treasury of FCTA had been vacant for the past six months without replacement.

He said that the appointment of new director would be in line with the principle of good corporate governance as well as allow the Permanent Secretary to play his proper role instead of acting as director of treasury.

He added that CAACASVI had, however, gave notices to relevant authorities on this matter as concerned stakeholders in the FCTA.

Onlede added that CAACASVI had given the Federal Capital Territory minister a 14-day ultimatum to correct these lapses in the treasury department.

“If after a week from now no concrete result is achieved in the process  of appointing a Director of Treasury among other things, we will have no other option than to mobilize like minds Civil Society Organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to picket your (minister) office in a peaceful demonstration,’’ he said.

He said the option to picket the office was to press home their demands in line with the Constitution.

“At  the appropriate time we shall disclose to Nigerians several cases of maladministration and corruption in FCTA treasury due to the absence  of a qualified and substantive Director of Treasury,’’ Onlede said.

Three weeks after the submission by the CAACASVI, the appointment of the Director of Treasury has remain a torning issues in FCT.

Chairmen of the six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) now take decisions and implement policies on their own in total disregard to superior authorities, Aljazirah Nigeria findings have revealed.

Administratively, the minister of state for FCT, Ramatu Aliyu has the responsibility of supervising activities in the six area councils of the FCT, with the council chairmen reporting to her whenever they want to make decisions on policies or issues bordering on the people.

It was gathered the case is quite different now, as most of the council chairmen are now answerable to themselves without recourse to any constituted authority.

The development, it was learnt, has severed their working relationship between the minister and the council chairmen and is gradually brewing a cold in the FCT Administration.

The FCT administration, under the supervision of the office of the FCT minister of state, has accused the chairmen of the area councils of hardheadedness and insubordination to the superior office.

A senior director in the FCTA who did not want his name in print said the council chairmen no longer report to elected FCT representatives at the National Assembly and the Area Council Services Secretariat on issues pertaining to the councils.

According to him, the chairmen no longer care about the security situation of their councils, and they have demonstrated it by their absence at security meetings summoned by the minister of state for FCT.

The source told our correspondent: “Despite several warnings and threats by the minister of state, the chairmen still show a lackadaisical attitude towards security matters in the area councils. They are either late or not present at such meetings.

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“They are only punctual and physically present during the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) meetings where monies are shared to their councils.

“Some of the chairmen who at different occasions, publicly alluded to their independence as elected officers not answerable to appointed officials, have been appointing chiefs in their councils despite the ban on such appointments”.

The source further disclosed that the FCT administration had in 2016 suspended all chieftaincy-related appointments in traditional institutions across the territory due to the numerous complaints, petitions and legal tussles by interested parties.

“However, despite the ban, from the information we got, the chairman of Kwali area council, Hon. Chiya Danladi has issued some persons with appointment letters as district heads of Yebu, Dafa, Kilankwa, and Wako communities respectively.

“We have been reliably informed that documentation by the head of administration at the Kwali area council for the various appointees preparatory to placing them on monthly allowances has been processed,” he said.

Aljazirah Nigeria learnt that the meeting of all the Gbagyi chiefs was held to fine-tune and perfect plans for the official turbaning of the district heads by the Etsu of Kwali.

Ephraim Danladi, one of the youth leaders in Kwali, said that the decision of the chairman to go against the FCT order to appoint district heads could be interpreted or assumed to be a calculated attempt to create disunity and throw the entire Kwali area council into chaos.

“I can confirm to you that crisis is already brewing in Yebu chiefdom following the substitution of one Bulus Garba as the successor to the office of the Yebu District Head by the chairman of the council. This is not a good development, following the state of insecurity in the country,” he said.

It was also learnt that another council chairman who initially violated the authority of the minister of state is the chairman of Gwagwalada area council, Mustapha Adamu, who was accused taking a similar action, but later rescinded the decision by withdrawing controversial appointments from some district heads.

Amidst the deteriorating infrastructure in the federal Capital, the Federal Capital Territory Administration in March  this year   stirred the hornet nest  following the announcement by the Minister to introduce  to re-introduce ‘Park and Pay’ policy on May 1, to curtail the rate of wrong parking in the city.

The Acting Secretary of the FCTA Transport Secretariat, Usman Yahaya, had disclosed this at a press conference on in Abuja.

Mr. Yahaya said the historic plan to re-introduce the ‘on-street parking policy’ in the territory was part of efforts to free the streets for better traffic flows.

Aljazirah Nigeria investigation revealed that ‘On Street Parking Management’ initially saddled with the responsibility of collection of fines from violators was suspended on April 14, 2014.

The development was in compliance with the FCT High Court ruling that declared the operation illegal.

Mr. Yahaya said that prior to the judgment, the scheme was riddled with so much complaints.

He said that the operators were variously accused of many underhand activities ranging from unprincipled, dubious, deceitful, unprofessional and unscrupulous acts.

“It was based on these shortcomings that the Suntrust Savings and Loans Ltd., challenged the powers of the FCTA to impose levies on motorists that park their cars on FCT streets.

“Justice Peter Affen in his judgment, commended and described the ‘park and pay scheme’, which was introduced for the purpose of effective traffic management as laudable but ruled that the scheme was unknown to the FCT laws.

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“He blamed the authorities for not backing the scheme with adequate laws,” Mr. Yahaya said.

According to him, investigations from both the authority and the public revealed that the activities of the ticketing clerks contributed in no small way to the public disdain for the scheme.

He said that ticketing clerks were variously accused of intentionally making themselves unavoidable whenever motorists were in need of their service.

The acting secretary frowned at the clamping and towing of vehicles that later became the order of the day, which according to him informed the jubilant reactions of the public, when the court suspended the scheme.

He, however, assured the public that the licensed operators that would begin the implementation of the policy were repentant with a promise to serve residents well.

AljazirahNigeria investigation revealed that the “park n pay policy of the FCT Minister has been redesigned with the various  activities of Vehicles Inspection Officers, VIO, Agberos, the unconventional tax collectors and the Road safety Corps who claimed they are working on the instructions of the FCT minister.

While the VIO lay siege on adjourning streets connecting the minsters Gate, at Area 11,  various Traffic lights, removing plates numbers vandalising vehicles , The Road safety Officials are in control of areas like Mabushi, Federal Secretariat , and the ever busy Wuse market.

The Agberos, are incharge of Area 1, Nyanya , Lugbe and other entry points into the FCT collecting “ revenue which are never receipted .

Commercial taxi drivers in Abuja penultimate week   protested against alleged extortion by the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) and Motor Park touts popularly called “Agbero” at various Junctions of the City centre.

The protest however, nearly got out of hand at the popular Area 1 roundabout when what sounded like gun shots were heard and everyone around the area started to run for cover. AljazirahNigeria  was not able to confirm if the sounds were that of a gun or teargas canister, a protester spoken to, said they were gun shots.

The protesters, who were very bitter, accused the VIO officials and members of its task force (who most times appear in mufti) of extortion, harassment and illegal arrest.

One of the protester narrated how a pregnant passenger lost her life due to harassment by an “Agbero” who joined his cab in the guise he was a passenger only to begin to drag the steering wheel with the cab driver and ended up ejecting the car keys from the ignition port which led to an accident that eventually caused the death of the pregnant woman

A group of taxi drivers in the Federal Capital Territory have gathered at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, again on Monday to protest alleged harassment and collection of illegal levies by officials of the Vehicle Inspection Office.

AljazirahNigeria sources said that VIO are preventing taxi drivers from operating by stopping their vehicles and telling their passengers to alight.

Aljazirahnews


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