Traders debunk allegation of tax evasion, urges Governor’s intervention

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Traders in Abakpa Main Market, Abakaliki have debunked the claim by officials of the Ebonyi State Government that tax evasion was the reason for moving in to enforce compliance with revenue payment on them.
They dismissed the claim at a news conference in Abakaliki on Friday and urged Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State to quickly intervene to resolve the impasse.
Chief Pius Mbam, who spoke on behalf of the traders, said they are law-abiding and always pay their taxes and all other government approved revenues promptly.
Mbam said: “We don’t have problem with government over tax payment or paying of any approved revenue in the market.
“Traders in the market are law abiding, responsible and peaceful citizens who pay their taxes to government regularly.
“We pay our N14,000 monthly business premises levy and stallage fees to the Ebonyi Local Government Council.
“At no point has Ebonyi government, its agents or privy approached traders at the market through their leaders or individually over tax evasion or revenue default.
“It is strange to us to hear that traders who are peaceful and law-abiding attacked Ebonyi revenue collectors who came to enforce revenue payment compliance and to sanction those who refused to pay their taxes and N14,000 business premises levy.
“We are using this medium to inform the world that at no time did traders at the Abakpa Main Market, Abakaliki default in payment of taxes or payment of any approved revenue.”
Mbam listed alleged imposition of caretaker government on the traders, issuance of quit notice and revocation of lease-hold notice on shop owners, which traders at the market agitated against, among the reasons for the action of some suspected thugs.
He said: “The government of Chief Christopher Eze who was duly elected by the traders was still running when state government suddenly suspended him without cause and in contravention of our constitution.
“The deposed chairman has only spent one year and some months in his tenure when government removed him from office.
“Mr. Peter Oba, who is not a shop owner or trader in the market, was brought in and imposed on the traders.
“Again state government asked traders in the market to move to the International Market without compensations to shop owners whose lease-hold on the market is still valid.
“Traders don’t have N3.2 million fixed by state government per shop and they don’t have the financial strength to build in a swamp as the market is still uncompleted.
“We appeal to government to reconsider its position on the quit and revocation of lease-hold notice.
“The quit notice was issued on July 30 to expire August 30, while revocation notice was served on August 1 and the market was invaded by suspected thugs on Wednesday, August 28.
“Traders whose shops are currently under seal are signatories/plaintiffs to the suit pending at the court, with suit number HAB/124/2019.
“We went to court to challenge the action of government because we believe that the court is the last hope of the oppressed.
“Our problem with government is that we are law abiding and chose to seek redress to the injustice meted out to traders at the market by going to court.”
Mbam alleged that when attempts by government to force plaintiffs who sued the state government to withdraw the suit failed, its agents decided to clamp down on the traders.
He further alleged that the residential building of Paul Ude, one of the plaintiffs, at 2, Oghe Street, Udemezue, Abakaliki and his shop are under seal.
He added that shops belonging to other plaintiffs in the suit, including David Awoke, Patrick Eze, Titus Nweke and Fidelis Nweze, were currently under seal as part of the ongoing government’s clamp down.
Mbam appealed to the state governor to intervene by restoring sanity to the market in view of the present avoidable loss of revenue generation from the market.
“Traders don’t have N3.2 million and traders don’t have financial strength to build in swamp and we also appeal to our dear governor to remove the care-taker chairman,” he said.
Responding, Martin Ukwuegbu, Special Assistant to Governor on Internally Generated Revenue, told News Agency of Nigeria that government revenue agents merely demanded revenue payment, denying allegation that the traders were rough-handled.