Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
A timely intervention by the Benue State Police Command saved the day on Wednesday, February 7, when over 2000 youths stormed the office of the state Board of Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) to protest harassment and manhandling of the BIRS Chairperson Mrs. Mimi Adzape-Orubibi by the Commander of the Police X-Squad in Benue, Olukayode Ayilara.
The protesting youths under the aegis of Coalition of Harmonized Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria had gathered and blocked a portion of the Makurdi/Gboko Highway chanting in protest “X-Squad Must Go” and bearing different placards.
But a few minutes after the youths stormed the highway, the Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, arrived the scene and pleaded with the youths to vacate the road and allow for free flow of traffic.
Our correspondent gathered that the new Commander of the X-Squad had on Monday gone to the BIRS office and demanded N10 million from the executive Chairperson Mrs. Mimi Orubibi, claiming that it was an order from the Police Inspector General; but when the Revenue boss demanded to know why, Ayilara is said to have pounced on her.
In an address, spokesperson of the coalition, Solomon Semaka, lamented what he described as harassment, intimidation, blackmail, vindictiveness and criminal take over of Benue IGR by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, through his police X-Squad and unlawful and criminal assault and threat to life of the BIRS Chairman by Ayilara.
Semaka noted that the Nigerian Police under IGP Ibrahim Idris had continued to carry on as if law was meant to serve itself rather than the people, adding that the coalition of over 100 civil society organizations had gathered to protest what they regard as the criminal takeover of revenue collection due to Benue state government by the IGP and his X-Squad.
“We are constrained to believe that the IGP has submitted himself and the entire Nigerian police force to be used by the powers that be to frustrate the Benue state government. Otherwise, why will the IGP arrest tax collectors, seal tax offices, beat and intimidate revenue agents all over the state? Why will the IGP send Ayilara to demand for N10 million as logistics for the IGP from the state government?”
Responding, Commissioner of Police Fatai Owoseni, who was received by the BIRS boss, while noting that the IGP did not send anyone to collect money from BIRS, said the officer in question had already been identified and had been invited to Abuja for interrogation, even as he appealed to the protesting youths to allow for peace.
For her part, Adzape-Orubibi pleaded with the youths and members of the BIRS staff to end the protest, stressing that the Governor and the Police CP had already taken up the matter.