By Stanley Onyekwere
In what seems as a subtle rekindling of the long standing feud between FCT Administration and Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) over collection of taxes in the Territory, following Tuesday’s bloody clash of revenue officers at the Games Village junction area of the nation’s capital.
PeoplesDaily gathered that suspected thugs working as “revenue officers” for AMAC purportedly went on rampage, attacking three officials of the Department of Outdoor Advertising and Signages (DOAS) and a camera man attached to the FCT Minister office, Godwin Ameh.
It was learnt that some persons posing as “revenue collectors” engaged by consulting firms working with AMAC as technical partners had in the past clashed with DOAS in the discharge of its mandate. But, recently both warring parties reached an agreement to work amicable with each other.
However, trouble started Tuesday evening when DOAS officials attempted to recover some impounded branded vehicles by the agents of the Council, thereby igniting the feud with them.
It was gathered that DOAS officials moved in to secure the release of the impounded vehicles, following complaints from the affected residents and organisations who had already paid their Mobiles Advertisement Rates to DOAS and obtained advertisement permits,
And the situation degenerated when a certain Terry Okan, now at large, led over 30 suspected thugs armed with hockey batons and sticks to assault the officials of DOAS and journalists who were at the scene.
While journalists and others scampered to safety, the thugs abducted three officials of DOAS, with the two sides later ending up at the Wuye Police station.
A hitted argument had ensued among the suspected thugs as to what to do with their abductees. While some said they should be pushed out of the vehicle, others suggested they be dumped at the Wuye Police station, where 11 of the thugs incidentally ended up behind bars.
Narrating his ordeal, Director of DOAS, Dr. Babagana Adam, who also escapes being hurt, said he was called by two affected owners of the impounded vehicles in particular and several others have sent text messages to him.
Adam, who spoke to journalists outside the Wuye Police, said: “One is Brooklyn hotel, Lokogoma who called me yesterday that his vehicle has been confiscated.
“I pleaded with him not to pay anything that extortionists that I will speak with the Director of Security to come me rescue them. The second one was Access Bank that called saying their vehicle had been attacked.
“The third one, I cannot immediately remember the name now because of the circumstances. I felt since we have three policemen and the team, we could go and liberate them and release the vehicles.”
The DOAS boss adds: “We did not go to fight. We just went to talk as we did at Utako junction where they listened to us and released the vehicles.
“ When we took those extortionists to the police station, we were talking of that other vehicles had been detained, only fr us to come back and then we were mobbed by the thugs that have been brought, as we learned, from outside the FCT.
“And they are thugs as you can see they look like bouncers, and they were imported into Abuja just to settle that scores that DOAS should not collect the Mobile Advertisement Rates from FCT residents. It is to the Glory of God that some of us are standing here.
“If FCT wants high internally generated revenue and standards, we need to protect those who do the work.
“We need more security, not to molest but to do the work. Some of us have the zeal to work, we do not want to be arm chair executives, which is why we are in the field.”
One of the DOAS staff who was assaulted, Ebere Nwokocha called on relevant authorities to assist the department in the discharge of its mandate.
He said; “Our assignment is to make sure that every vehicle that is branded collects a permit to operate. There is a law that backs that and all the six Area Councils in FCT had gazetted that law and handed over their rights on mobile adverts to the DOAS in 2012.
“However, since that time, a cabal in AMAC has been defrauding the government to the tune of over N1.8 billion.
“Just last month, the director of DOAS published an advertorial that the collection of mobile advert has been handed over to his department and residents were to pay into a TSA account not the way the so-called task team is collecting cash,” he said.
Meanwhile, the suspects were interviewed by journalists, all admitted not being AMAC staff, but they were recruited by one “Peter”.
Similarly, reacting to the development, relevant AMAC authorities maintained that, the Council had prior to the gentleman agreement allow DOAS to collect most of the taxes for AMAC , it had authorised signatory some consultants to collect the taxes.