From: Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State Government, on Wednesday, moved against tax defaulters by sealing off a Chinese Company, Hilong Oil Services and Engineering Company.
According to investigations the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) was at the premises of the company to seal it off over alleged tax default of N109.5m.
Findings indicated that the Company that renders services to oil companies in Niger Delta region had allegedly owed the state government for five years.
A Bayelsa High Court in Sagbama Division presided over by Justice E.G Omukoro reportedly granted order in an exparte motion filed by the Board against Hilong and ordered that it seals off the company premises.
The enforcement team of BIR, with full complement of security operatives, drawn from the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, stormed the premises of HOSEC located at Elebele, Ogbia Local Government Area of the state and sealed it off.
There was a mild drama as the enforcement team was initially denied access into the premises by soldiers guarding the company but were alter allowed in when an official of the company came directed that they should be allowed in.
In an interview after the operation, the Director of Compliance, BIR, Mr. Robert Lokoson, said the team was at HOSEC to recover a tax debt of N109.5m owed the state government by the company since 2013.
Lokoson said the operation was in pursuant of Section 104 of Personal Income Tax (Amendment) 2011 and an ex parte order granted by the High Court of Bayelsa State, in the Sagbama Judicial Division, holden at Yenagoa.
He stated, ”This operation is part of Bayelsa State Government’s efforts in improving Internally Generated Revenue in the state and pursuant to Section 104 of Personal Income Tax 2011.
”The Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue, having obtained the necessary court orders, hereby pasted the Warrant of Distrain on the property of Hilong Oil Services and Engineering Company Limited for a tax debt of N109.5m owed the Bayelsa State Government.
”The debt has been on since 2013 and we have written a series of letter to them to pay but no response from them. A few weeks back, we came here, though not with court orders, with the intention of having them to see reasons to come and comply, but no response. So, we have to take this last resort of getting court orders.
”Tax matter has laws binding it and as a law-abiding board, we have gone through the necessary processes to arrive at carrying out the sealing.”
Lokoson explained that after 14 days, if the company still refuse to pay, the board would go back to court and institute a case against them.
According to him the sealing of the company is to demonstrate that it is no longer business as usual for companies operating in Bayelsa state.
”This action will send a strong message to other companies that we are not joking. Companies have been taking things for granted in this state. Now, we want to enforce the law to the letter so that those other companies that are not complying will see reasons to comply.
The official who gave orders for the BIR officials and security operatives to enter the premises declined to make any comment on behalf company.