…It is when they refuse to fulfill their obligations as citizens in the payment of taxes that the State Government comes in
Justice Alexious Okuma of Atani High Court in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State has said that the State Government has no business in the Markets except to collect taxes.
Okuma stated this yesterday when he advised parties involved in the case of Electronics Dealers Association, Onitsha to prevail on their clients to drop the matter, follow the law and resolve the case among themselves to ensure peace in the market.
Speaking at the resumed hearing in a matter brought against the Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Industry, Dr. Obinna Ngonadi, the Attorney -General of Anambra State and others on the imposition of Caretaker Committee on the market by the traders of Electronic Dealers Association, the Judge told the counsels that they know the truth of the matter and should be able to tell their clients the truth.
He asked them to prevail on their clients to settle the pending matter out of court to give peace a chance in the market, since the case is distracting the traders who abinitio are not in the market to engage in unionism but to trade.
Justice Okuma said the Government has no business interfering in the leadership of the market, rather their concern should be for the traders to pay their taxes as and when due.
“It is when they refuse to fulfill their obligations as citizens in the payment of taxes that the State Government comes in and collect their money on individuals basis” he admonished
The Judge said that both the State Government and union leadership should allow the law to operate, noting that if there is a problem in the market, it would affect everybody, including the families of the traders.
He specifically told the counsel from the Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Loveline Ezude, representing the Government to tell the State Government the truth in the matter through her Commissioner for Justice and Attorney -General of the State.
He said business is defined by laws and associations are formed to speak for the people and for their welfare.
“All of us go to Dubai. Their Government don’t behave in this way. Government comes and collect tax. Government should stay away from market. They should avoid being partisan. The traders on their part should know the reason for setting up association, to negotiate with Government” said Justice Okuma.
He noted that the market association is not a government apparatus but unfortunately it has become a place where the leadership of the association collect taxes, under-pay Government and pocket the larger chunk of the money.
“The lawyers know the truth. Lawyers are social engineers. I admonish the state counsel to tell those in Government the proper thing to do, which is to move into the market, collect their taxes and move away” he said.
Continuing, the Judge decried: “It is only in this place that people don’t pay tax. Some have five storey buildings but they don’t pay tax”
He said for a functional state to exist, the people need to live within the confines of the law, stressing that traders should equally do the right thing.
The Judge noted that it is not everything that should go to court, lamenting that most of the markets within the Ogbaru Judicial Division are embroiled in one court case or the order in their bid to resist interference of government in the leadership of the markets, questioning the interest of government in moving into the Market to run it, instead of going there to collect their tax.
He then directed that the four lawyers representing the parties in the case should sit down and find a way to settle the matter out of court.
Both lawyers for the applicants and Government agreed that they would be amenable to peace.
Ugo Ugwunnadi, counsel for the applicants lauded the court for appreciating the situation, saying “we are amenable for peace and ready to settle. I withheld the bench warrant because of what the Judge said. I hope we will settle amicably outside the Court”.
Ezude assured of the preparedness of the State Government to ensure peace and progress in the market.
“We are open to settlement if that is what the applicants want because they came to court. So, if they decide that there should be peace of course we are amenable. Our stand has always been that Government wants peace to reign in the market”.
The matter was adjourned to November 8, 2022 when they would come to brief the Court on the progress they have made.