By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
Imo state government under Governor Rochas Okorocha has allegedly concluded arrangements to resort to brute force to enforce the newly introduced #3,000 levy on every taxable person in every community in the state. However, communities in the state are girding their loins for a battle against the levy. Feelers from virtually all the over 500 autonomous communities in Imo indicate that the levy is not popular with the people and will therefore not be paid, threats of severe of sanctions for obstinate communities and their traditional rulers notwithstanding.
Many Imo communities lament the levy is obnoxious and illegal. They allege the levy which is pegged at #6million per community amounts to over #4billion if fully paid by all autonomous communities in the state will be is going into Rochas’ private pocket to be used in funding and rigging his son-in law, Uche Nwosu, into power as his successor next year.
The angry communities have vowed that agents of the government will not be allowed to enforce the levy as they are battle ready to resist them. To this end, taxable male adults and youths in several communities are reportedly forming what has been described as ‘Self Defense Groups’ to thwart enforcement of the levy. Sources allege the Imo government is weighing the establishment of a special Taskforce charged with enforcing the levy, should taxable persons in the communities refused to pay peacefully. One of the mandates of the task force, it has been learnt, will be to mount roadblocks in strategic roads in all Imo communities with the view to identifying defaulters.
If the “offender” is operating movable property such as a vehicle, motor-cycle, bicycle etc at the time of “arrest”, such property will be confiscated and receipt issued to him/ her for that.
The task force will also be empowered to raid communities to fish out those who refused to pay the levy and varying degrees of sanctions applied. However, the Self Defense Groups, according to highly placed sources, are ready to engage, fist for fist and brute for brute, Imo government agents-a special Task force or any other body-set up by governor Okorocha to enforce payment of the levy.
In a letter emanating from the office of the Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Community Government, Culture and Traditional Rulers, dated April 3rd 2018 and entitled “Payment of Autonomous Community Adult Development Levy of Six Million Naira”, the Imo state government warned that “any recognized autonomous community that fails to pay the development levy will be merged with a sister autonomous community that had paid and salaries/allowances of the Traditional Ruler of the erring community will be suspended”.
The letter went further to inform that “to facilitate the payment, the government has provided community Adult Registers for autonomous communities where communities will enlist names of at least 2,000 leviable adults”
Citing a recent report released by a research and economic intelligence group, Economic Confidential which listed Imo state as among 17 states in Nigeria that will collapse without federal government’s financial support, some supporters of governor Rochas Okorocha insist the levy will to an extent help the government shed financial burden of bringing developmental projects to the communities.
Spirited efforts made by the magazine to have Sam Onwuemedo, Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary, react to the Magazine’s enquiries on the controversial levy failed as he did not pick The source’s calls nor respond to Short Message Service, sms, sent to him.