From Uche Nnorom Makurdi
There was pandemonium yesterday in Makurdi, Benue state capital as men of Police X-Squad operating in the state besieged headquarters of the Board of Internal Revenue Service, BIRS demanding the release of tax evaders.
The incident which occurred at about 4 pm drew the attention of youths around the environ who protested by making bonfire and disrupting traffic.
A staff of the board who pleaded anonymity explained that a quarrel had ensued between Assistant Commissioner of Police Olu Kayode Ayilara and the Board Chairman Mimi Adzape Oribibi when the former demanded the release of some tax offenders.
He added that the action of Ayilara who is said to be working on the instruction of the Inspector General of Police, IGP may not be unconnected with the earlier demand from the board through one of their agents that the IGP needed N10 million.
According to him, the ACP was seen manhandling the chairman in her office, a situation that resulted to serious confusion and tension in the board office.
Narrating her Ordeal in the hands of ACP Ayilara, Executive Chairman of BIRS, Mrs Orubibi said the crisis started when the ACP came to the BIRS office demanding release of offenders and woods impounded from them.
She said the ACP led his team to her office last Thursday, but was told she was not around and when he returned yesterday, he barged into her office and told her to release all the impounded woods and the offenders.
According to the BIRS Chairman, the ACP, told her that she had no right to impound the wood and that they were following the directives of the IG who have instructed him to produce N10 million.
She said the X-Squad have been helping traders in the state to evade tax, alleging that sometime ago, they arrested the board agents and asked them to pay between N300, 000 to N500,000 before they are released.
“Beside this, every Monday, they collect N200K from our staff, which they usually refuse payment through the bank.
“When he came today saying that the board does not have a right to impound wood, I questioned whether the wood belonged to him.
“He started hitting his hands on the table, threatening to deal with me. He called me a harlot and said I am a woman that does not have any right and he was going to finish me.
“Look at my buttons, he tore them and slapped me. He told the agents that the IG said he must bring N10million.
“But I know that the IG would not have asked him to do that. “I have interacted with the IG and I know his stand on this issue, the IG can never tell him to do that.
But briefing newsmen after meeting with some Police Chief’s in the state, Governor Samuel Ortom said the Police Command has set up an investigative panel to probe the incident which led to the alleged assault of the BIRS chairman by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr. Olu Kayode Ayilara.
He stated that the meeting became necessary following a misunderstanding between the BIRS Chairman and the Police, stressing that they were informed by the DIG that the Police Commissioner would constitute an investigative panel to ensure justice in the matter.
Governor Ortom said the state has faith and trust in the Nigerian Police, adding that what was important was to ensure that the rule of law prevails at the end of the day.
“What we want is the rule of law to prevail. I just finished a meeting with the Deputy Inspector General of police, DIG, Mr. Joshak Habila, Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, Mrs. Hilda Ibifuro-Harrison and the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni as well as Senator George Akume among others, and I believe the issue will be resolved.
But reacting to the incident the Benue Police Command said the policy direction of the Inspector General Of Police is that all Police actions must conform with the rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights of the citizens.
According to the statement, the Officer behind the disgraceful act has been identified and Investigation has commenced in earnest.
The statement reads in part, “the investigation will be handled dispassionately and accorded the seriousness it deserves, with a view to ensuring that the erring officer and any other Officer found wanting are made to face the full wrath of the law”.