Anambra Government says that 75 persons have been prosecuted and sentenced to different prison terms in the past three months for engaging in illegal revenue collection in the state.
Mr Christian Madubuko, the state Commissioner for Trade, Commerce, Markets and Wealth Creation said this on Friday in Awka, adding that 15 other suspects were awaiting trial.
Madubuko said that 12 persons were arrested on Friday in connection with a similar offence.
He expressed worry that the activities of fake revenue agents in the area had continued unabated, in spite of state government’s efforts to check the phenomenon.
According to him, government is losing huge amount of money on a daily basis while traders are fleeing from the state because of the activities of touts.
He said: “Gov. Willie Obiano seriously frowns at the development and has mandated the ministry to put a stop to it.
“These criminals arrested at Bridge Head, Uga Junction, Okpoko, Owerri Road and Main Market areas of Onitsha were seen extorting money from traders.
“They don’t have any authorised papers to collect levies for government.
“They forged my signature, that of the Secretary to the State Government and Chief of Staff to the Governor.”
The commissioner said that government suspended the payment of levies from February to June.
He therefore warned that those paying money to fake agents were doing so at their own expense.
“The state government has not authorised anyone to issue receipts or written approval letters to anyone since the suspension of levies in February.
“So, anyone collecting levies now is doing so at his own risk,” he said.
Madubuko urged traders to collaborate with the ministry by providing useful information that would help to flush out fake revenue agents in the state.
Also speaking, the Commander of the state Revenue Task Force, Mr Nathan Obikwelu, said that the nabbed fake revenue agents were collecting between N300 and N500 daily levy from each petty trader in the commercial city.
“We have video recordings of some of the traders, mostly women, who were interviewed during the arrest and they confirmed that the suspects collected between N300 and N500 daily from them.
“You need to see the way these suspects operate and harass traders. They sometimes beat and torture women selling petty items.
“One of the victims was a 79-year-old woman selling granulated sugar, wrapped in N10 and N20 sizes.
“You can imagine the kind of emotional trauma such an old woman will go through when being harassed for N300,” Obikwelu said.
He said that three of the 12 suspects arrested on Friday were released immediately after screening them.