The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has decried the unilateral closure of 9mobile Port Harcourt Regional Office by officials of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS).
A petition addressed to the Executive Chairman, RSIRS jointly endorsed by ALTON chairman and executive secretary, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo and Kazeem Oladepo respectively, lamnted that the sealing of EMTS premises is to compel the collection of alleged tax liability of N107,958,536.96, which represents its disputed outstanding tax liability arising from Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) of expatriates, erroneously believed by the revenue agency to be subject to tax within the Rivers State.
“As you know PAYE obligations are to states in which the employees reside, therefore, since EMTS did not have any expatriate(s) on its payroll who were residing in Rivers State within the assessment period, EMTS is clearly not indebted to the government of Rivers State for the alleged tax. EMTS had, at several meetings and by various correspondence explained and maintained that it is not indebted to the government of Rivers State as alleged by the RIRS, as it has never had expatriate employees working or residing in the state, and provided relevant documents in support of its position,” the petition read.
ALTON said based on its findings, it wishes to categorically reiterate that EMTS is not indebted to the government of Rivers State and that the sealing of EMTS’ premises is illegal, especially as it was carried out without a court order and without adherence to the due process of law. “The conduct of the RIRS in this regard, apart from being a clear contravention of the law, goes against the efforts of government at improving Nigeria’s position on the global Ease of Doing Business index, to encourage foreign investment. Also by applying self-help remedies especially in a situation where the claim is erroneous, the RIRS has portrayed the state in very bad light as unfriendly and not welcoming of investors.
“We also wish to draw your attention to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) directive that no government agency should seal any BTS site as they are designated Critical National Infrastructure. In this instance the directive has clearly been contravened by RIRS in sealing 9Mobile premises where a critical site is also situated, which has become inaccessible with the attendant security implications,” ALTON said.
It said EMTS has suffered incalculable financial loss as the sales outlet which is within the premises has remained closed, preventing it from serving its esteemed customers. EMTS has also suffered severe reputational damage from the bold display of the sealing order on EMTS premises, creating the perception that EMTS is a tax defaulter. EMTS employees have suffered untold hardship due to this wanton act, as its employees have been unable to resume at their duty posts for over two weeks.
“All entreaties to meet with the RIRS for a reconciliation was rebuffed; rather, the RIRS has compelled EMTS to make a payment of 30 per cent of the alleged sum amounting to N32,387,561.088 as a pre-condition to unsealing EMTS regional office. EMTS has been severely prejudiced by the refusal of the RIRS to give EMTS an opportunity for a reconciliation meeting, despite several requests for the same.
In view of the foregoing, ALTON requests RIRS and the state government to desist from any acts inimical to the normal operations of our members in the state and to unseal EMTS premises immediately to enable it to continue its operations to offer Rivers State it usual world class services, while granting EMTS audience for a reconciliation meeting at which we trust the matter would be finally resolved,” the operators said.
Copied are the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); National Security Adviser, (NSA); Minister of Finance; Minister of Trade & Industry and Secretary, Joint Task Board (JTB)