George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Politicians and major stakeholders in Imo State have reportedly accused Governor Rochas Okorocha of trying to extort the 637 autonomous communities by ordering the traditional rulers to raise the sum of N6 million each by levying all taxable adults N3, 000.
The levy was part of their counterpart fund for the industrialisation of the state.
The alleged that the governor should account for all the monies that have accrued to the state in the last seven years.
They also alleged that Governor Okorocha wanted to use the funds for financing the election campaign of his son – in – law Mr. Uche Nwosu in 2019.
Commissioner for Community Government, Culture and Traditional Affairs, Louis Duru had, last month, asked the traditional rulers in all the 637 autonomous to enforce the state governor’s decision that all communities in the state should raise the sum of six million naira by ensuring that all taxable adults pay the levy of 3,000 each.
However, the president of Olu Owerri, socio-cultural organisation, Chief Martins Opara alleged that it is part of the ploy by Governor okorocha to raise money for the gubernatorial campaigns of his son- in –law, Uche Nwosu and urged the communities not to pay, noting that the threat of merging defaulting communities together by the state governor is a demonstration of his commitment to cause chaos and destabilize the people and their peaceful communities to enable him rig the 2019 elections unchallenged.
According to him, “The communities should demand accountability from a government that has received over a trillion naira in federal allocations, Paris club refunds, IGR, local government allocations, 13 percent derivations as oil producing state in the past seven years, because paying any money to Imo government when our Local Government system, roads, hospitals, schools and security was abandoned and monies meant for them not accounted for.
“It is regrettable that the same government that demolished Imo markets and mechanic villages, banned tricycle (keke) operation, demolished peoples’ houses without compensation, owing pensioners, sacked ten thousand youths and lately, sacked over two thousand Local Government workers, will come around and demand individuals to pay three thousand naira to him, I wonder where he expects these traumatised citizens to bring the money from’’.
Also, Hon. Uche Onyeaguocha, has called on the people of the state not to succumb to blackmail.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. MacDonald Enwerem reads, “This cheap blackmail to Autonomous Communities is unacceptable and highly condemnable. However we do not expect less from an anti-people administration. Accordingly, we advise all autonomous communities, their Ezes and Leaders to refrain from allowing their people from being duped. This attempt at extorting with official threat should be discountenanced”.
Equally, Mr. Robert Ezekwem, a community leader said that the state cannot ask the adults to pay taxes when the same government has their sources of livelihood in the ongoing demolitions across the state and that the same government has also failed to compensate those who were affected.
“Governor Okorocha is asking adults to pay 3,000 levy for industrialization but the same governor demolished all the business premises and markets across the state. I don’t even know where he wants the people to get the money from’’.
However, the state commissioner for Information, Prof. Nnamdi Obiaerari, said that the decision of Imo State Government is backed by relevant and extant CGC and Autonomous Communities Laws in Imo State.
He pointed out that the decision has no political undertone as being alleged but for overriding public interest.
According to him, “The letter of the Honourable Commissioner for Community Government, Culture and Traditional Affairs dated 3rd April 2018 under reference is only reiterative and demanding compliance. Adult Community Development Levy of N3000 was a product of reasoned, long standing, mutual and beneficial decision between Government and the Community Government Councils (CGC) led by Ndi Eze to FastTrack rural development.
Implementation of this autochthonous decision contained in this recent reminder letter under reference has been ongoing since 2017 with varying degrees of compliance by different autonomous communities.
The principle behind this Autonomous Community Adult Development levy is for every Autonomous Community to raise at least Six million Naira from at least 2000 leviable adults paying N3000 each into their community coffers.
When evidence of payment is presented to Government, Government will in turn subvert each complying community with the sum of N4 million totalling N10 million to be administered by the respective CGC for its rural development purposes,” he explained.