Osun State Government of Osun has ordered the temporary closure of two forest reserves over alleged illegalities, contraventions, and corruption by the plank sellers.
The forest reserves are both located within Irewole and Isokan local government areas.
Addressing journalists in Osogbo, the Special Adviser to Governor Rauf Aregbesola on Natural Resources, Prince Tunde Ajilore said the closure was to ensure that illegal operations in the forest are stopped and financial loopholes blocked.
Ajilore alleged that some plank sellers, through illegal operations, kept shortchanging the state, the practice which has affected the Internally Generated Revenues (IGR), with millions being carted away.
Meanwhile, the government has denied the allegations of extortion and double taxation by the associations of plank sellers in Irewole and Isokan local government areas.
The plank sellers in the two local governments on Thursday staged a protest against multiple taxations and alleged extortions by agents of the state.
The protesters also lamented that their businesses suffered serious setbacks as a result of what they called ‘fraudulent activities’ of the government agents.
However, the Special Adviser insisted that the Natural Resources Department did not subject plank sellers to any double taxation.
“What we charge is in consonance with the laws in revenue generation.
“Our primary responsibility is to mobilise revenue for the state in order to boost its IGR and we know what the law says about double or multiple taxations.
“We cannot act above the laws and cannot place an unnecessary burden on our people, we only charge what the Federal Government and the State House of Assembly approved.
“The agitation is politically motivated and it is an attempt to force me and my staff to soft pedal on the series of illegalities, contraventions, and corruption being perpetrated by the plank sellers associations of Irewole and Isokan LGs which is not possible.
“We will not allow them to cheat the government,” Ajilore said.
He remarked that until the dialogue was established and the plank sellers show remorse over their illegal acts by complying with the laws of the state, the government would not hesitate to deal with anyone found culpable.
“We have done our findings and we discovered that there is nothing like extortion from any of our staff.
“If the plank sellers have any evidence, let them come up with one instead of maligning or disparaging other people’s image.
“At most, they can approach the court to seek redress.
“We are strongly appealing to the association to toe the most honourable part of a peaceful engagement to resolve issues, and not display any form of gangsterism or rascality.
“We are open to negotiations and dialogue at any day or any time if they comport themselves.”
Corroborating the Special Adviser’s stance, a Task Force officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Mrs Yemisi Adetipe remarked that the plank sellers were really short-changing the state government.
She explained that the ministry had not gone against the revenue mobilisation committee in the collection of money as agreed with the associations.
From Adeyinka Aremu, Osogbo