Tax Evasion: Imo Govt Seals Up Banks In Owerri, As Customers Become StrandedBanking & Finance, Business, Government Buz, Ignatius Okpara, Latest News Friday, December 13th, 2013
IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu
For failing to pay their various forms of taxes and approved levies, the Imo State government Thursday sealed up bank premises found wanting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, leading to the total paralysing of commercial and social activities in the area.
However, the Governor Rochas Okorocha led government’s action compelled the entire banks in the city to completely shut down operations in protest, a development that left bank customers stranded.
African Examiner gathered that the exercise began as early as 5 am and lasted till 10am Thursday.
As at 1pm, all banks were still under lock and key while customers were seen hanging around, with some begging the banks security and staff to allow them access to their ATM machines for withdrawal of cash.
Some of the customers who reacted to the development expressed disappointment over the issue, calling on both the banks and state government to sort out the issue urgently.
A customer who spoke to our correspondent and gave his name as Mr. Chinaka Nnanaemere, lamented that the shutting of the banks had cost him his business trip to Abuja as he could no longer pay for the booking of his air ticket.
Meanwhile, those who had no other alternative, had to go to Aba, Onitsha, Unuahia, and other neighbouring cities to make their transactions.
Speaking to newsmen on the issue in Owerri, the state commissioner for Internal Resources and Pension Affairs, Mr. Nick Oparandudu, explained that the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) took the action in exercise of its statutory powers.
He said the action was taken in compliance with a court injunction granted the BIR, authorising it to stop the affected banks from operating on failure to adhere to the repeated demand of the board for them to fulfill their statutory obligations.
The Commissioner stated that the action was taken as a last resort because of the banks’ non-compliance with the provisions of the law.
He said that the board used that action to send a clear signal to all organisations and institutions operating in the state on the importance of meeting their statutory obligations to the government and its citizens.
The commissioner expressed hope that the affected banks would take immediate steps towards clearing the backlog of taxes owed the government in order for them to continue doing business in the state.
Mr. Oparandudu also regretted that Imo state had the lowest compliance of tax in Nigeria and appealed to business operators in the state to cooperate with the government because it is a business-friendly state.
He urged all financial or business institutions operating in the state to meet their statutory obligations with respect to taxes and other approved levies when they are due, because according to him, the government needed all monies and resources at its disposal in order to continue its massive infrastructural development in the state.
He said the act was not that of impunity, because his ministry would not use thugs to enforce compliance of laws he added.
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