Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Igbo groups under the umbrella of the Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, (COSEYL) has kicked against the recent freezing of accounts of business owners in the Southeast by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) describing the process as selective and against the interest of the Igbo.
In a press statement by the President General of the group, Goodluck Ibem and the Secretary-General, Kanice Igwe, it noted that the alleged cases of freezing of accounts and business accounts belonging mostly to South-East are indeed against the spirit of unity, just as it further said that it is “selective at a time like the post-Covid-19 era when businesses are going under and governments trying inordinately hard to bail out globally so that job losses, inflation, purchasing power decline would not attend this critical period”.
According to the statement, “COSEYL gathers with regret the move by Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, which is not unconnected with freezing of certain accounts on the grounds of tax-related matters/offences.
“Importers of ethanol pay excise duties and import duties which translates into double taxation even when it is not advisable to pay excise as an importer. Ethanol is a raw material and this excise duty charge reflects on prices of goods with the poor consumer bearing the whole brunt.
“The FIRS, COSEYL believes, is by law duly mandated to see to the transaction of taxes and revenue all over the federation, it is not by law mandated to go about it selectively as may remind a certain section of the country of the civil war and the decades following – 1970s.”
However, explaining the impact of the FIRS’s action COSEYL added “In certain cases were personal accounts of owners of frozen business accounts blocked without any proof of infraction or non-compliance with the law. This way, private businesses are closed and individuals account holders made to suffer deprivation.
“It should be recalled that the South-East does not boast more or much of federal presence as do some states and cities with high-rise buildings and federal base yet a city like Aba has today an edifice of the FIRS.” The statement claimed.
The group while requesting to know the section of the law which empowered FIRS to freeze such accounts also urged it to unfreeze the business and private accounts in the region.
“And, while this is the case, COSEYL wants FIRS to state which extant or relevant laws that empower it to seize accounts in that manner. Nigeria belongs to all her ethnic groups and none should try to militate or lord it over the other.” Ibem said.
COSEYL reminded the FIRS that “Today in the South-East region there’s no single sea port working optimally even when ordinarily this should have been the case.
“The Coalition wishes to remind the FIRS that the best it ought to be doing at a time like this is creating pro-poor and pro-people revenue policies so that small scale businesses and baby industries are protected and kept afloat,” the group noted.