Touts on the highways and at motor parks, at the best of times, are known to be a total nuisance to the general public. In worst case scenarios, they are criminals unleashed by corrupt politicians intent on extorting money from already financially- stretched members of the public.

 In their operations, force tending towards violence is their method. At a point, they were just regarded as hustlers trying to eke out a living. That was until they became the handmaids of politicians who use them for various activities especially during elections when they come in as ballot box snatchers, hit squads against political opponents and other sundry roles often criminal in nature.

Now, unfortunately, they have been integrated, formally, into the internally generated revenue collection system with targets to be met at all cost. In some states, they have uniforms that confer on them the authority of the government particularly at the local government level.

The incidence of multiple taxation that is crippling businesses especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), is a fallout of this overarching inclination to bolster revenue even if it meant trampling on the rights of the individual exposed to the activities of these elements unleashing terror on the people with a tacit approval by officialdom.

In all cases, the response of the political authorities to public disapproval of the menace they have become is an admonition requiring everyone to cooperate with them. The argument, often, is that the government needs money to build infrastructure, for instance, in the face of dwindling revenue from other sources.

In all these situations, the obvious deduction is that the authorities know that what they are doing flies in the face of legality and therefore the necessity to coerce compliance by the public. No state or local government is exempt in this drive to generate revenue internally by violence using these street urchins.

But what is happening in Anambra state benumbs the mind. The present administration in the state believes that these touts, as ignoble as their modus operandi is, have their nuisance value.

Curiously, in our view, the activities of these touts were a major campaign issue especially in the commercial town of Onitsha. Governor Charles Soludo, then a candidate, had promised that on his watch, touts will have to look for other means of sustenance. He pledged that they will not be allowed the free reign they enjoyed then.

The people believed him. But like all political promises, it has turned out to be empty observed more in the breach. Sadly, in our opinion, these touts are now so emboldened, empowered and raised to the pedestal of revenue contractors. The fear of these revenue collectors in the state is the beginning of wisdom.

An interaction of our reporter who visited Onitsha with residents of the city indicated that these touts- turned revenue contractors are presently a law onto themselves. The worst hit are taxi drivers and tricycle riders who groan under the spectre of multiple collections. The implication is that certain routes are off limits due to the rascality and brutality of these so-called revenue collectors.

As pointed earlier, this policy, yes, it is a policy of using persons of questionable character as revenue collecting agents, is not peculiar to any one state. We are specific on Anambra because it was one of the reasons why Soludo had an easy ride into the Government House in Awka, the state capital. Traders and other businesses had hoped that he will keep his word. That has not happened yet as these agents unrestrainedly unleash brute force on the people in the guise of generating revenue for the government most of which is misappropriated any way. That one is not resident in the state is for them a banal argument.

This newspaper has severally called the attention of the powers that be to the harassment that is the way of operation of these elements. We had also argued against the harmful effect of the attendant multiple taxation that is hanging on the neck of businesses like an albatross.

The danger of using these characters, most of them criminally inclined, in revenue generation, is that they are not known in law. Officially they are not staff of any government agency. They are not qualified to do what they are doing. Simply put, there is no control in so far as they deliver on their targets. Even worse, there is no accountability let alone transparency. What they declare is what is believed to have been generated.

We note that Governor Soludo is an internationally renowned economist. A former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). A former Economic Adviser to President Obasanjo and head of that administration’s economic team. Presently, Anambra State is not seeing the manifestation of this stellar record that their Governor parades.  He is expected to be more refined in his drive to generate revenue for the state. He should also know that putting a stamp of approval on the inanities of touts in the guise of revenue collection blights his acclaimed brilliance. He pledged to explore his international connections to bring development to the state. The people are waiting. In the meantime, he owes himself a duty to rein in his touts and give the over-burdened people of the state a breathing space.

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