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Lawyers petition ICPC, IG, seek JTB’s probe over alleged extortions

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Chigozie Ikpo, Abuja

Two legal practitioners, Bala Dakum Esq., and Nurat Usman Esq., have petitioned Dr Musa Aliyu, the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), over alleged extortion levelled against the Joint Tax Board (JTB).

Dakum, a Principal Partner and Usman, a counsel, in the law firm of B.I. Dakum & Co, in a joint petition, also petitioned the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, urging them to thoroughly investigate the acts of harassment, extortions and unlawful impoundment of vehicles under the guise of implementation of the Single Inter-State Road Tax Stickers (SIRTS) and Single Haulage Fee (SHF) by the JTB.

In a letter addressed to the ICPC chairman, the lawyers said they “are solicitors to Paben MBC Ltd. and on whose firm instructions we petition you.”

They said the company, a limited liability firm, is duly registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020, and is into haulage businesses with Mr Solomon Obodeh as its Chief Executive Officer.

They alleged that since 2022, the JTB, chaired by the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), engaged in illegal implementation of the SIRTS and SHF.

The petitioners said though the operation is purportedly being carried out pursuant to the provisions of the Taxes and Levies Act, Amendment Order 2015, neither the Act establishing the JTB nor other legislation gives it the powers to engage a consultant or operate SIRTs and SHF initiatives.

Besides, the lawyer argued that a judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State delivered by Justice A.O. Faji on May 8, 2020 had “nullified the Taxes and Levies Act, Amendment Order, 2015 which is allegedly the bases of the implementation of the SIRTs and SHF initiatives.”

“The said Act which the Joint Tax Board purports to derive its powers particularly PART IV. 2(a) of the said Act only gives the JTB the powers to design stickers but not to produce issue and or engage a consultant.

“Section 2(b), Part IV of the said Act empowers the states to set up institutional structures to collect haulage fee and not the JTB,” the petitioners said.

According to the lawyers, this fraudulent exercise is being carried out by JTB agents across the states of the federation.

“The modus operandi is that, the JTB stations its agents in strategic locations across the federation and empower them to impound all commercial vehicles and some designated private vehicles who do not purchase its stickers.

“The amounts paid by the owners/drivers of the vehicles for the said stickers are arbitrarily determined by the particular agent of the JTB.

“The money paid are normally received in cash or into private accounts of the said JTB agents.

“The state’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) chairmen sell stickers to subcontractors at the state levels who selt at different rates to unsuspecting members of the public without receipts,” they alleged.

In the letter addressed to the I-G, the lawyers equally called for the investigation of Citiserve Limited, a consultancy company, engaged by JTB.

The lawyers, who gave instances where their client had been made to pay for the stickers at various times, urged the ICPC chair and the I-G to invite the JTB management to explain the legal framework upon which they base the operations.

They want the JTB to disclose the official price of the stickers and how much it had generated since the implementation of the said initiatives.

They also want the consultant to be invited to disclose how much had been generated through its platform since the commencement of the initiatives.

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