By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The Benue Cement Company BCC, Gboko has been shut down and production of the Portland brand of cement at the factory halted following a picket action carried out by the management of the Benue State Board of Internal Revenue Services Board.
The halt in production at the factory site was a fall -out ofÂ a row between the management of the BCC and the Revenue Board over an alleged N190million tax evasion by the company management.
Close to 48 hours barricade of the factory which was led by the Chairman of the Revenue Board, Mr. Andrew Ayabam, accompanied by his team of officials and security operatives, was the first major task ofÂ the newly appointed Chairman of the revenue service board who has vowed to execute the mandate of his office to the latter.
Ayabam told newsmen that BCC would remain underÂ Â Â luck and keys until every kobo that is being owedÂ Â the state government is cleared by the management of the company.
He disclosed that the board had on several occasions prevailed on the company to honour its responsibilities to the government but regretted that the subtle persuasion yielded no positive result, hence the decision of the board to resortÂ to enforcement.
â€œI am prepared to remain here at the gates until they commence the payment of the backlog of unpaid taxes in one of the five banks that operate within the premises of the factoryâ€, Ayabam said.
The Revenue Board Chairman whoÂ lamented the adverse implication of tax evasion on the economy of a state especially by corporate organizations informed that he was out to restore sanity in the tax collection drive in the state warning all defaulting organizations to pay up or be ready to face the wrath of the Board.
He noted that the Governor Gabriel Suswam l ed administration was determined to positively impact on the lives of the people through its well -articulated programmes maintaining that these policies and programmes would amount to nothing when government fails to raise enough funds to finance suchÂ set objectives.
According to him, â€œwe have a mandate to assist the government check all perceived leakages in its effort at boosting the Internally Generated Revenue IGR drive and I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of both citizens and cooperate organizations alike to assist this government through regular payment of taxes to aid the development efforts of the administration in the stateâ€.
The action of the Board also attracted the attention of the General Manager in charge of Finance, Mr. Michael Etu, BCC Plc, who came to the gate with other managers for a brief dialogue with the management of the Revenue Service.
Mr. Etu urged the Revenue Service management to come to the office of the companyâ€™s managing director for dialogue on the problem of tax evasion.
However, Ayabam, insisted that if there would be any dialogue every member of his team and the press must be present to witness proceedings; but Mr. Etu declared, â€œthen you are not ready to dialogue. When you get tired of standing in the sun, you will leave the gateâ€.
When contacted on phone, another management staff of the Company who spoke on the development but craved anonymity told Vanguard the action of the Benue State Revenue Service Board was legitimate but regretted that in the last 48 hours the company has recorded losses running into several millions of Naira.
He stressed that the management team have been holding meetings to fashion out a means of offsetting the two years backlog of Personal Income Tax being owed the state government.