The attention of the Anambra State Government has been called to a viral video of public misconduct of two personnel of the Unified Hybrid Enforcement Team (UHBET) acting on behalf of the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service (AiRS).
In the said video, the UHBET personnel were seen dragging a citizen, identified as a commercial transport operator, out of his vehicle and driving away in the same vehicle.
Curiously, while the less-than-one minute video did not show what transpired before the unfortunate dragging incident, swift investigation by AiRS has shown that the commercial driver, plying Onitsha/Edo State route, was stopped on the road, had his profile checked on the online portal and was found to owe N37,000. Then, as the defaulting driver attempted to escape, the UHBET personnel double-crossed him with a ‘Keke’ tricycle and rough-handled him.
Although the UHBET has the mandate to enforce every revenue payment accrued from commercial transport operators plying the roads of Anambra State, its personnel are not supposed to do so in a violent way.
It is regrettable that some members of the public have been circulating the video and wrongly insinuating that the state government authorized the actions of the misguided officers. No, Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, CFR, did not and would never authorize such crude ways of engaging the public for whatever reason.
In Anambra’s new evolving society built on principles of law and order, human rights, fairness and empathy, the trending incident involving the unwholesome actions of the UHBET officers are absolutely unacceptable. As much as the viral video has understandably provoked public outrage, the actions captured in it do not in any way represent the approach of the state government or portray the engagement rules of the Revenue Service.
In fact, it must be explicitly repeated that such behaviour stands in stark contrast to the responsible, caring, and humane philosophy that the Soludo government upholds.
So, the Anambra State Government hereby dissociates itself entirely from the indecorous activities of the overzealous revenue officers and offer sincere apologies to the mistreated individual and the wider community of Ndi Anambra.
Accordingly, Governor Soludo has personally expressed his dismay over the incident and ordered immediate action to address this situation. In response, the chairman of AiRS, Dr. Greg Ezeilo, ordered a prompt, thorough investigation which has now led to the arrest of the offending officers in the viral video, and they are being held in police custody to account for their actions.
Meanwhile, the state government acknowledges the importance of proactive measures to prevent such incidents in the future. To this end, the enforcement agencies of the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, including ANJET and UHBET, will undergo proper retraining and reorientation programs.
These programmes will be designed to instill a deep sense of responsibility, empathy, professionalism and respect for human rights among the officers in the discharge of their duties.
In the end, the goal is to ensure that every citizen’s interaction with government officials in Anambra State is characterized by respect, courtesy, and fairness.
We recognize that tax collection is vital for the development of our great state, but it should never come at the expense of basic human dignity and decency. That is why Governor Soludo remains steadfast in his commitment to serving Ndi Anambra with honour, humility and respect that they deserve. Therein lies our journey to a true better society.
Press Secretary to the Governor
September 3, 2023