Determined to boost the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), the Enugu State government on Wednesday inaugurated a revenue court, even as it vowed that henceforth, tax evaders will face the full weight of the law.
The presiding officers of the newly established revenue court are Justice Ken Okpe, and two magistrates, Mr Joseph Agu and Mrs Angela Chioke.
The state however disclosed that the various reforms implemented by the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) to increase the state IGR had begun to yield much benefit, noting that tax and non tax revenues yielded N11 billion in the first half of 2017 as against N7.2 billion for same period in 2016.
The Chairman of BIR, Mr. Emeka Odoh, who spoke during the inauguration of the revenue court, said the establishment of the court was part of efforts to ensure tax payment by all taxable adults in the state.
Odo said that tax evaders were in for difficult times as it would no longer be business as usual, adding that such people would be prosecuted accordingly.
He said that the state government would no longer condone tax evasion or avoidance no matter how highly placed the suspects were adding that “institutions and individuals who deprive government of its legitimate tax resources will be prosecuted in accordance with the laws of the land,” Odoh said.
Also speaking, the Chief Judge of Enugu, Justice Ngozi Emehelu said the inauguration of the court signalled an end to the use of force or jungle justice in revenue administration process in the state.
The chief judge said that tax authorities and citizens had been afforded the opportunity to freely approach the revenue court to seek redress, adding that the era of rule of force, jungle justice or forceful seizure of property of the citizen is over. So, we thumb up the board for this desirable option of a revenue court.
“The court shall have duty exclusively to hear and determine tax and revenue cases involving the board in the state,” she said.
Emehelu said that the practice and procedure of the court shall be in conformity with the practice and procedure obtainable in the Magistrates Court in the state.
She said that such practice and procedures would be subject to such modifications as may be necessary and appealed to the revenue court officers to apply accelerated hearing in matters before them.
She said the tax authorities and citizens were free institute tax related matter in the court.
“There may be a reason for neglect or refusal by a citizen to pay taxes such as over assessment or double taxation. Whatever be the case, let the tax authorities and citizens feel free to approach this court to seek redress,” Emehelu said.
In an address of welcome, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Tax Revenue and Financial Matters, Mrs Adaonah Kene-Uyanwune said that the revenue court would make administration of revenue matters less cumbersome.
Kene-Uyanwune described tax administration as an embodiment of legislative process without which compliance would be difficult.
She said that though taxation seemed painful but the state government would always strike a balance by applying human face in its implementation.
She commended the state governor for giving the board the necessary support in the discharge of their duties