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EEDC Offices: Leave Governor T.A. Orji Alone

By Madubuko Hart

To score a cheap political goal, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), in some national papers has blatantly, blamed the government of Abia State for the outage of electricity caused by the sealing of the offices of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) in the state. The opposition political party said that it was the state government that sealed the EEDC offices. The party wrote a lot of things perceived were intentionally meant to draw the indignation of public sympathy, where none should have existed.

Governor, Theodore Orji of Abia State

Governor, Theodore Orji of Abia State

But the party did not tell the reading masses that it was observable that based on the solemn assurances made by EEDC Board and management, His Excellency, Governor T.A. Orji generously intervened and bounded that BIR hang up the sealing of EEDC premises in the state to shun any adversity such legal scuffle may cause Abia citizens and other residents.

Putting the story straight, the government did not waste its time to correct that story by the party orchestrated to mislead the general public. The government extricated itself from the imbroglio of the sealing, hammering on the general public not to buy in the ugly cake of information that was dished out by the PPA for public consummation.

In a press briefing made available to the general public, but especially to newsmen, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Abia State, Dr. Eze Chikamnayo lamented that the government he serves does not know how a judicial matter has become part of the government affairs, saying, “the sealing of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) formerly Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) offices in the state was a judicial matter caused by the refusal of the EEDC to remit all Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes deducted from its workers salaries.

“The Abia State Board of Internal Revenue BIR, whose statutory responsibility it is to handle taxation matters in the state audited the EEDC and from 2006 till date the EEDC has a PAYE Tax liability of Six Hundred and Twenty Three Million Naira ( 623 Million) which has been duly communicated to all relevant authorities including the Federal Ministry of power.

“However, the judgment debt from 2006 to 2011 as allowed by the extant laws and established a tax liability is four hundred and seventeen million, (N417million) naira against the EEDC and it was for this that demand notices were served on the company which it refused to pay.”

The government through the commissioner had added that the company was taken to court by the State Board of Internal Revenue BIR. The public was meant to understand that this approach has been the fate of every other organizations that had a case with the BIR, of which was not the sole act of the Board, but that the High Court granted the Board an Order to seal (their) offices in making sure that the amount that was being sought for was recovered.

The opposition party known as the PPA did not tell the public when on the 23rd of November 2013, the EEDC (PHCN) chased away the officials of the BIR with the Army and Police when the latter braved up to seal the offices. The party did not tell the world that the company later came to a meeting with the BIR on the 5th of December 2013, where it was determined that the Board should grant the EEDC two weeks from the 5th of December 2013 to enable it to liaise with the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company for the payment of the outstanding liability. But did the EEDC (PHCN) comply with that directive?

According to the government: “The EEDC further asked for the 20th January 2014 as the date for the payment of the liability failure which the law will take its course, but, in an apparent display of bad faith, the EEDC went behind to file a suit in the High Court for Stay of Execution Order. The Board of Internal Revenue followed the EEDC to court and it was not until the 2nd of October 2014, when the court rejected the request of EEDC for a stay of execution of the earlier order that BIR moved to enforce the court order, hence the sealing of the EEDC on the 9th of October 2014.”

As clear as this matter is, it is obvious that the Abia State Government has no hand in whatever that has been going on with the BIR and the EEDC (PHCN), because it is clearly a legal matter which is being handled by the court for the two parties to resolve their differences. Even though that the BIR is an agency with the government, it’s reasonable to say that is a constitutional body with existing responsibilities and rights.

Like the government had admonished, “We would rather advice the EEDC to act as other responsible corporate citizen and pay its taxes or alternatively act in good faith and approach the BIR for amicable resolution of the issue in the interest of our citizens” instead of making it a political matter, which it is not.

Hart writes from Lagos


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