Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, has said his administration would be ruthless in the collection of taxes in 2013.
He said the state would also ensure that tax defaulters were prosecuted and jailed if found guilty.
Amaechi spoke at the maiden town hall meeting with the legal practitioners, on the theme: ‘Justice Delayed Equals Justice Denied,’ at the High Court in Port Harcourt Monday.
He said while his administration would do everything possible to ensure even development in the state, he would also harness all avenues open to the state to generate funds.
“I say to you there are several developments in the state that are ongoing and I assure you that we will try and complete them. We will be ruthless in tax collection in the coming year; everybody must pay their tax, we will amend the law to ensure that those who don’t pay taxes will go to jail, that’s the way the law will be.
“We will stop our brothers from collecting taxes on the road. We will stop multiple taxation and we have sent the bill to the State House of Assembly; we are waiting for them to pass it. We will stop all that but we will ensure that those of you who don’t pay their taxes and avoid taxes will be punished because we need the money to be able to run free education, to be able to run free health care,” he said.
He assured members of the legal profession in the state of his administration’s policies that would help in the effective and quick dispensation of justice but said members of the profession needed a change of attitude.
He said his government would continue to fund the state judiciary but added that while the judicial arm of government needed independence, the arm needed to assert its authority to be recognised.
His words: “I assure you that we will continue to fund the judiciary but know that it is not only funds that make the judiciary independent. What makes you independent is the ability to assert yourself and say no to any arm of government or any individual no matter his position in the country or the state.
The day you compromise, that is when you will know that funding alone is not the independence.”
He noted that there had been delay in the judicial process in the state because of lack of leadership discipline in the judiciary.
“It has to do with discipline of leadership, not followership. If a judge says I will sit at 9.00a.m and at 9.00a.m he sits and you are not there and he punishes you for not coming, what happens? The next day you will come at 9.00a.m. But if you come at 9.00a.m and say to him I had an accident, so sorry, go ahead with your matter, the next day you will have another accident but if he punishes you, you will not. So the reason for which you have African time is because leadership doesn’t care about how to manage the society,” he said.
He lamented the delay in the court process and said that was one of the reasons people employ other means to resolve disputes.
According to him, “Our justice administration system as represented by the court is unusually slow. This has adverse implications for the society which brings us to the famous legal maxim ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’
“The court is therefore a critical institution for an orderly society. Where the court is not in a position, for any reason, to timely and properly address the issues in dispute, the people will lose faith in this critical institution of government with the resultant recourse to other means of resolving disputes including self-help,” he said.
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