Suspected armed bandits operating in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State have reportedly commenced the collection of taxes and levies from residents of Torough and nearby communities.

It was gathered, yesterday, from a resident of the community, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being attacked, that the gangs introduced a levy of N20 million as monthly tax to be paid by each household.

He said they had already started gathering the levy after allocating each household their share of the tax since they had no option but to comply.

He pointed out that no one, including the village heads, dared challenge the authority of the armed gangs or report the matter to security agencies stressing: “We are more or less in bondage here. There is no complete freedom of movement, association or expression. These militia boys are very deadly and powerful here in our Sankera axis.

“The whole of the three LGAs in Sankera made up of Logo, Ukum and Katsina-Ala are affected by this madness. These boys have a very strong communication network for their business. They monitor everything.

“So, when the news about the N20 million came to us, nobody dared report to security agencies. You and your family will be eliminated in broad daylight. We are paying the N50,000 levied each household. Some traditional compounds that have many households are levied N1 million.”

Militia leader known as ‘Full Fire’ behind it —LG Chairman

Confirming the development, Caretaker Chairman of Ukum LGA, Mr. Victor Iorzaa said: “it is true that armed bandits are taxing the people and are demanding N20 million. I have reported the matter to the Police and also the State Security Council.

“The person behind is a bandit known as ‘Full Fire’. He was the person that connived with armed herdsmen recently to attack Tiv people, he has been working with armed herdsmen.

“The people are living in fear. That community is the most troubled place in the LGA. He started this shortly after he lost the attack on the community. And the place he stays is a community bordering Taraba State. If you remember two weeks ago, the military launched an attack on his house.

“The man has been terrorising the area for the past five years but the government of Governor Hyacinth Alia is working hard to put an end to their activities. And security operatives are also working hard in that regard.”

We’ve decimated them— Security Adviser

Reacting, Special Adviser to the Governor on Internal Security, Joseph Har said bandits were already on the run from the state and could not have the luxury of collecting taxes from villagers.

According to him, “The issue of illegal levies has become a common practice with bandits everywhere worldwide because they use it to survive. However no government will fold its hands and allow that callous thing to happen.

“The criminals have been having very tough time of recent and they are really having the heat and cannot have the guts to wait and collect any tax.

“Most of them have fled their camps, you can find out, and we intend to sustain the momentum until we run them down or they surrender.”

Contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Catherine Anene said the Command had not received report of the development.