The Federal Inland Revenue Service on Thursday sealed companies in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and Owerri due to non-remittance of Value Added Tax.
Two of the affected companies belong to controversial investor, Jimoh Ibrahim. In Lagos, the FIRS sealed the premises of Swift Networks, an internet provider, and Pan Ocean Oil Corporation Nigeria Limited for failing to remit huge amounts in VAT.
Swift Networks, which has its office at 31, Saka Tinubu Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, failed to remit N702 million to the government.
Its office was sealed by FIRS officials led by the Director of Enforcement, Emeka Obiagwu.
The Chief Operating Officer of Swift Networks, Chuma Okoye, pleaded against the shutdown order, but was told by Obiagwu that his company should have complied with the laws governing business in the country.
Obiagwu added that FIRS has huge obligations to fulfill.
He said: “Several notices have been served on the companies and I believe several moves were also made to compel the companies to remit their taxes.
“But most of these companies turn deaf ears;.
“That is why we usually give them long rope,’ he disclosed.
Okoye explained that his organization has started working on how to fulfil its obligations to the government.
At the office of Pan Ocean Oil Corporation, the enforcement recorded some drama, with the company’s security men attempting to prevent FIRS officials from from carrying out their duty.
It took the intervention of some members of the company to restrain the security men for the enforcement to take place.
Efforts to get FIRS officials to give another period of grace were futile.
The management of the firm was told to send representatives to the FIRS office to discuss how to remit the $29.2 million owed in VAT.
At Century Energy Services Limited, members of staff were told to vacate their offices and the building was sealed up.
As part of concerted measures to ensure that taxes are paid as at when due and defaulters brought to book, the FIRS tax enforcement team sealed off two erring companies in Kaduna.
In Kaduna, FIRS officials sealed the office of System Properties Development Company Limited located at Shehu Crescent in Kaduna North Local Government Area.The company has failed to remit over N20 million.
The same fate befell Mutunci Company Nigeria Limited located at Plot 5, Kudenda Industrial Layout, Kaduna.
The company failed to remit over N42 million.
The owner of the company, an Indian whose, name was given as Mr. Vora, insisted that he was up to date in the payment of all his taxes and went ahead to show his 2016 VAT clearance certificate due to expire in December.
His explanation, however, was deemed unsatisfactory, as he was told by the enforcement team that there are discrepancies between the expected payment and the actual payment of over N42 million.
Speaking on the exercise, the enforcement team leader, Suleiman Abubakar, said the exercise was to get defaulting companies to remit VAT.
Abubakar said: “Today, we have invoked our statutory provisions and sealed off System Properties Development Company Limited and Mutunci Nigeria Limited, who have outstanding tax liabilities which run into millions.
“The companies will remain under lock and key unless and until the affected companies clear and liquidate their liabilities.”
Abubakar disclosed that the tax enforcement exercise was going on across the federation.
In Abuja, the FIRS team sealed off two companies owned controversial investor, Jimoh Ibrahim.
Led by Miss Ruth Mandeun, the enforcement team gave the management of the companies over one hour to pay up before executing the distrain warrant on them.
The first point of call was the NICON Luxury Hotel located in Garki, Area 11.
The hotel, according to a Warrant of Distraint used by the FIRS team to seal it off, was owing about N392,623,765.00 in unpaid tax liabilities.
The amount was made up of unpaid/unremitted liabilities of the hotel in Company Income Tax, Education Tax, Withholding Tax and Value Added Tax between year 2009 to 2013.
The management team of the hotel, led by Ogunlusi Abimbola, initially insisted that the company is not owing government such a huge sum, putting the tax arrears of the company at N24 million, out of which she said the company has paid N6 million.
But when the enforcement team insisted, she agreed that the hotel is aware of the tax liability, but claimed that a tax consultant to company had written the Chairman of FIRS to complain about the liability and that the hotel is already discussing with the Service on how to resolve the dispute.
But when she couldn’t produce copies of her correspondence with the FIRS when asked to, the leader of the team insisted that nothing else than payment of the full tax liabilities will stop the execution of the distraint warrant.
The hotel insisted that it did not have such funds to pay.
Thus, the enforcement team shut it down, an action that took over six hours due to resistance by the management.
The sealing off of the hotel led to the closure of the other offices and three bank branches located within its premises.
Members of Peoples Democratic Party holding a stakeholders’ meeting in one of the halls in the hotels were forced to park their vehicles outside the premises as the enforcement team locked the gates while workers of the hotel instantly closed for the day.
The next point of call for the team was NICON Insurance, which, according to the Distraint Warrant, is owing N182,685,036 million in unremitted Withholding Tax and VAT from 2008 to 2012.
The team sealed off the third, fourth and ninth floor of the building being used by NICON insurance.
This followed appeals by other occupants, including Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, that the sin of the other occupant should not be visited on him.
Companies were similarly sealed in Owerri, Imo State.