From Uche Usim, Abuja
Seven construction workers of G-Complex Nigeria Limited, a construction and environmental conservation firm, were hospitalized at the Maitama General Hospital on Wednesday, after they were allegedly brutalised by officials of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) on Wednesday, when arguments over unpaid annual vehicle permit turned bloody.
Some of the construction firm workers, who had bandages on their arms, heads and legs said they were beaten senseless by the AMAC revenue collectors along the popular Gwarimpa junction in the Federal Capital Territory while they were carrying out their official duties.
According to them, the AMAC officials attacked them with machetes and other dangerous weapons for failing to present receipt of N35,000 vehicle permit.
They added that two of their operational vehicles were vandalized and impounded by the AMAC officials.
Presenting the injured workers to journalists in Abuja on Thursday, the Managing Director of G-Complex Nigeria Limited, Mr Abdulhamid Mahmud Zari described the action of the revenue collectors as unacceptable, barbaric, illegal and unprovoked.
He reminded the AMAC officials that Section 3 of the Levies Act of 1998 stipulates that no person including a tax authority shall mount a roadblock in any part of the federation for the purpose of collecting any tax or levy.
Reacting, the Head of Operations, AMAC Task Force on Haulage, Light and Heavy Duty Vehicles, Douglas Badi, told journalists that it was the construction workers that started the attack on the revenue officials.
He said, “When the driver was brought to the office, I told him he should not park as I didn’t want a situation where you’ll start having physical contact.
“He now talked to the boss who told them that he was going to send his boys. I sat with some of our staff and I saw some boys numbering about 30, they were coming from the other side of the road where their vehicles were parked.
“We now sent two of our staff to the other side to do surveillance there. We traced them there and when we saw them, we asked the security to detain them. We came back to this place and the next thing we saw was that one of their staff struck our staff with a shovel on the face and on his hand.
“Right now, the doctors at the Gwarinpa General Hospital are going to carry out a major corrective surgery on his hand because the thing affected his vein that he cannot move his hand.
“When this happened we held their boys and in the process, the police said we should tow the hilux because we deflated the tyres”, he said.
Giving his own account of events, Zari, the G-Complex boss said: “Yesterday I was called by the driver of this pick-up that on his way to convey materials and take staff from Idu to our yard in Jahi, hoodlums blocked him at Gwarimpa junction and demanded that he should provide daily receipt of Abuja Municipal Area Council and he said he works for a construction company and there is no need for him to have such receipt.
“From that point, these people insisted that it is either he pays the money or they will confiscate his vehicle and because they are in large number, he succumbed that he would pay the money.
“They demanded N200 and as soon as he brought the money out to pay, they demanded the particulars of the vehicle. As soon as he showed them, they said the car does not have a sticker which they said is being sold for N35, 000.
“So he was now forced to call superior officers of the company and when those officers left from Idu to where the issue was happening, before they got there, they had towed the vehicle to their office in Jabi.”
He added that when the senior staff of the company arrived at the AMAC Office to find why the vehicles were impounded, they were attacked by the revenue collectors.
He continued, “When this staff got there, it was already late in the evening. The moment they saw the company staff coming, they started harassing them. They used cutlass to cut seven of our workers. Some had matchet cuts on their heads; others had their hands chopped off.
“Luckily for us, there was a police team on patrol that went there to intervene and helped to bring the vehicles here. There is one particular sad statement made by these people when I came this morning which is that the police is their own and that nobody can do anything to them.
“And this appears to be true because as at this moment, none of the operators have been arrested by the police.”
He threatened that if nothing was done by the Police or the FCT Administration, the Company will have no other option than to go to court.
“We will write to the government, if they don’t do anything, we will take legal action. This company employs over 2,000 workers and we won’t allow this sort of harassment go unchallenged,” he added.