By Sah Terence Animbom
Business persons in Boyo division of the North West Region of Cameroon are presently in a state of dilemma as they are confused on who to respect; the administration or armed separatist groups when it comes to the issue of payment of taxes.
For a while now, armed groups have been collecting outrageous sums of money from travelling business persons along the Bambui-Fundong road terming the money collected as taxes. To the armed groups, all business persons in Boyo must pay taxes to the “Ambazonia treasury”, a virtual treasury of a virtual state for which some young Cameroonians of the North West and South West have been fighting since 2017.
In Fundong sub division, where business activities are at a boom, business persons lament losing hundreds of thousands of francs to both armed groups and the military in the name of taxes. “The trend here now is that when the Amba boys from Abuh kidnap and take you up to their camp, whatever amount you pay there is the same amount you pay at the brigade. I am still to understand how gendarmes get to know how much a victim pays to the Amba boys. That is exactly our predicament here in Fundong now” Akungha, (not his real names for security reasons) tells The Sun Newspaper.
Another prominent business person in Fundong whose identity is preserved, on his way to buy merchandise to restock his shop for the festive season was held by Amba fighters in Baingo, Belo sub division and asked to pay FCFA 50,000 for taxes. “They told me that they know me very well and that since the start of the crisis, I had not paid taxes, what they called “partan”. They asked me to pay FCFA 50,000 else they wouldn’t let me go. I pleaded and pleaded for over 20 minutes before they accepted to collect FCFA 25,000 then issued me a receipt”. He said.
The Senior Divisional Officer for Boyo, Mr. Teni Fidel has warned that any business person that will pay such taxes to armed groups should be prepared to go to jail for sponsoring “terrorism”. He was speaking at the Fundong council budgetary session for the 2023 financial year on Friday December 30, 2022. He urged the municipal councilors present to take the warning message back to the community.
It is worth noting that the taxation and court offices in Boyo division have remained closed since 2018 and have continued to operate from Bamenda. The military is thus accused by many inhabitants of playing the role of the courts and the taxation department. Some high-ranking military officers in the division are said to have openly told some business persons while brandishing building plans of their personal residences that the plans were to be realized by Fundong people.
“I went to the Gendarmerie brigade to bail a young person who was arrested for owing someone money and his bail was placed at FCFA 100,000 when the boss at the gendarmes post said I should just pay that money before the young man is sent to Bamenda for threat of life and conspiracy with armed groups. He reminded me that I should be aware that there is no court in Fundong so his word will hold the moment he is transferred to Bamenda” Wowul, (not his real names for security reasons) told The SUN in Fundong.
Most armed separatist fighters on their part also extort money from inhabitants with impunity. They are said to keep their captives under pressure while traumatizing them in the process with threats of killing or harming them. Very often, their victims comply under duress and fear of loosing their lives or fear of bodily injuries which most armed separatists are fondly known for.