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Anambra reads riot act against illegal public levies



HARD times await people who extort shop owners at markets and occupants of public spaces across the state through collection of illegal and unapproved tolls and levies as government is set to re-jig structures already in place for enforcement of the ban.
A statement released by Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba, in Awka described those perpetrating the act as criminals,  warning them to stop or face the music.
“It has come to the knowledge of the Anambra State Government that despite several measures and programmes to make life better for our people, a number of criminally minded persons and groups have continued to devise all manner of methods to extort money from our people.
Quite painful is the fact that the majority of victims of the extortion are the poorest in society. There is perhaps nowhere where this unconscionable practice takes place as much as the markets in the state and the streets and roads leading to them.
These criminals collect levies unknown to the government. Some of the tolls are called ground tolls, container tolls and wheel barrow tolls.
Through these illegal tolls, importers, distributors and retailers are forced to pay huge amounts of money. Worse, buyers of their products are compelled to part with various sums to cart them from one place to another, even when the goods are not transported in carts.
This practice has led some people to seek to do business outside the state,” the release reads in part.
Continuing, the release stated that “the extortionists claim that the tolls are obtained on behalf of the Anambra State Government.
We would like to state for the umpteenth time that these tolls are not only illegal but also unconscionable. Even in the middle of the recent recession when various governments in Nigeria introduced different revenue generating schemes so as to meet their basic responsibilities, Governor Willie Obiano rather introduced an economic stimulus package in a bold move to lessen the economic burden on the people.
Cart pushers, often referred to as wheel barrow men, were among the first set of the most vulnerable members of society, to be exempted from paying not only taxes but all kinds of revenue to the government.
It is, therefore, heartless for any group of people in the market, or anywhere for that matter, to harass hapless citizens going about their legitimate business for payment of so-called government tolls.
Let it be emphasized here that wheel barrow tolls, pitchers tolls, petty traders tolls, obstacle tolls, land tolls, container tolls and barrow tolls remain abolished by the Governor Obiano administration.  The state government hereby authorizes all security agencies in the state, especially the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps as well as Operation Clean and healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade, to arrest all the culprits who make life difficult for our people, especially the less privileged, in the markets and on the roads and streets.
The Anambra State Government is committed to the evolution of a more humane, caring and inclusive society. The government is also committed to promoting the ease of doing business in the state.
We note with pride that Anambra State has in recent times recorded some notches up in the ease of doing business. We will sustain the momentum.
All those seeking private gains to the detriment of Ndi Anambra State and their collective future will have no place in the state any more. They must be made to feel the full weight of the law,” the statement concludes.

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