Suspected abuse of revenue collection
GM OCDA refutes allegation linking his office
Saby Elemba in Owerri
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has again warned ministries, departments and agencies in the state whose personnel extort market men and women and other members of the public, as well as abuse in the collection of government revenues, promising that the government’s hammer will be brought down on them heavily without notice.
The governor said that his office has been inundated with reports of extortion by government tax personnel, noting that such reports against ministries, departments and agencies of government over continued harassment of hapless members of the public, particularly petty traders, have continued to question the integrity of those entrusted with the responsibility of managing the so-called MDAs.
Uzodinma’s warning came through a statement made available to our reporter by Oguwike Nwachuku his chief press secretary, and it is against the backdrop of a trending voice message on social media alleging extortion of petty traders operating with umbrella shades in Owerri by those believed to be agencies of government.
While officials of the Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) were linked to the voice message, the management of the body has distanced itself from the allegation, insisting that their mandate does not include collection of fees on the streets.
A message from Franklin Nzewodo, general manager of OCDA, said he did not only frown at the trending voicemail, but saw it as an orchestrated ploy to undermine his office and good job they are doing.
“The management of Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) has frowned at insinuations from interested parties who go about creating the impression that the body collects money from vendors on the streets of Owerri.
“Contrary to such insinuations by callous blackmailers who would deploy any tool to undermine the good work the OCDA is doing in Imo State currently, the management notes that our job specification is not ambiguous for the personnel to comprehend.
“The Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) is a government agency responsible for the planning, development, and maintenance of the capital city of Owerri in Imo State. Its primary objective is to ensure the orderly growth and development of the city, focusing on urban planning, infrastructure development, environmental management, and beautification,” Nzewodo said.
He, therefore, appealed to members of the public to be mindful of such allegations aimed at tarnishing the image of the office of the GM, OCDA and his operatives, and that the management is also aware that the government of Uzodinma has zero intolerance for acts of corruption and other unwholesome activities that can bring hardship to the public, and will never subscribe to them.
He regretted that many members of the public have been deceived not to differentiate between activities expected to be carried out by the personnel of OCDA and those of other agencies, and urged them to come up with evidence of any alleged acts not in line with the OCDA’s job specification as the case may be.
He said: “It is essential to clarify that OCDA does not engage in the collection of fees from roadside vendors who display their wares under umbrellas or any other form of roadside vendors. The mandate of OCDA revolves around urban development and enhancement. The voice note’s claim linking OCDA to an operation is a misinterpretation of the events, and attributing the actions of workers of other agencies to OCDA’s officials is entirely misleading.
“Misinformation can spread rapidly, especially in today’s digital age. It is essential to verify the facts before sharing information to prevent the spread of false claims that can harm the reputation of individuals or organisations.
“In the case of the voice mail in question circulating in Imo State, it is imperative to de- associate OCDA officials as involved in extorting money from umbrella sellers as OCDA’s core mandate does not include revenue collection from roadside petty – traders or engaging in such activities.
“Let us remain vigilant and responsible in sharing accurate information to promote transparency in government and avoid unnecessary acts that create confusion. Of late, significant amounts of misinformation circulating through various WhatsApp platforms have tended to target the OCDA.
“A case in point is this recent voice note recorded by an uninformed individual, maliciously spreading the false claim that OCDA officials are extorting money from roadside sellers who display their wares under umbrellas.
“It is therefore crucial to address this misinformation promptly and set the record straight as the OCDA’s core mandate does not involve collecting fees from roadside vendors or engaging in any form of extortion. If anything, the OCDA has been chasing the roadside vendors away from the road, stopping them from obstructing traffic,” he added .