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'The Revenue Collectors' Tales of a Nigerian commuter
They were once popularly known as "agberos" due to their brutish and uncivilised approach to revenue collection from those who the government of the State deemed as due for such payments. Their targets were or should I say are commercial bus drivers, women selling in the markets and street hawkers of drinks as well as portable drinking water popularly referred to as "pure water". The 'abokis' selling fruits and other foodstuff in wheel barrows were also not exempted.
One wonders though what the criteria was for including the street hawkers as due for the daily payments as what they make daily as profit is quite meagre. The sad thing is that if for any reason these hawkers defaulted in paying the said amount, their wares could be confiscated pending when the payment was made.
Although attempts have been made by subsequent administrations to refine the manner in which revenue is collected with a more recent attempt of the introduction of POS devices for issuance of tickets , such reforms could not be sustained partly because it hinged on utilizing basically the same set of people with a mere change in the leadership in charge of over seeing the collection across the State. It seems as though they forgot or chose to ignore the fact that
a leopard doesn't simply change its spots.
Hence the use of the electronic backed ticketing system particularly for commercial vehicles has since been apparently and deliberately derailed by the collectors in favour of a return to the manual system of issuance with it's clear sink holes for siphoning of revenue collected to private pockets as against the government's coffers.
On the day I witnessed the bull run, the driver of the vehicle I boarded complained bitterly of how the old system of unitary ticketing i.e. purchasing a ticket per day was preferred to the current system of multiple ticketing where drivers have to purchase multiple tickets as they cross from one local government area to another. This means that a driver has to purchase the ticket of each local government area he ventures into in the course of his trips or operations for the day. The implication of this is that if he happens to travel across say for example 5 local government areas, he has to purchase 5 tickets, failure to do which would result in being penalised.
The driver narrated that the revenue collectors in a particular local government area were the posterboys for notoriety and had devised a dubious strategy to extort unsuspecting drivers. To execute this strategy, the revenue collectors in the said local government area would deliberately 'disappear' after selling tickets for only a short period of time in the morning which they knew was grossly insufficient to attend to the number of buses which had to come through their area of operations.
They would then suddenly reappear sometime around midday to seemingly apprehend drivers who they would claim had refused to purchase tickets. This narration by the driver was corroborated by another passenger who had witnessed the strategy in action. It has since become common knowledge among the drivers who plied the route and in order to avoid this trap and consequently paying an exhorbitant fine, they devised strategies of their own.
The first was to actively seek out the revenue collectors voluntarily to promptly purchase their tickets even if it meant alighting from their vehicles to run to meet up with them like our driver had to do on the said day because he hadn't spotted the collector on time and had driven past him. The second was to stop working altogether before midday if for some reason the driver was unfortunate not to have encountered them before that time.
Another mischievous strategy employed by the revenue collectors in the same local government area was to claim that they only had the higher denomination of the ticket available for sale thereby forcing the drivers to purchase that denomination even if they had previously purchased same at another local government area else they wouldn't be allowed to proceed on account of defaulting in buying the ticket.
One thing became apparent from the entire narrative on which all of us in the vehicle agreed. The problem with my country and indeed any country in the world where corruption is rife is not limited to the people high up in positions of power. The ordinary citizen or the one occupying a lowly position of power who tries to fleece other citizens of their money is also part of the problem as surely if such individuals get to climb up the ladder of power it will only stimulate their appetite for financial impropriety.
Like it is said the leaders are not spirits or foreigners , they are chosen or rise from among the people. Thus if the generality of the citizenry are good, there is a higher chance of a good leader emerging but if the reverse is the case, the outcome also will be glaring for all to see.