BY CHIDI NKWOPARA, OWERRRI.
Commercial banks operating in Imo State are threatening to close shop if government and it’s agents do no stop the harassment, which has engineered the face-off currently raging between them.
Vanguard investigations revealed that the feud between government and the management of the commercial banks, which had remained outside the purview of the populace, emanated from the alleged non-payment of certain fees and charges by the banks.
Government is alleging that the banks are not remitting withholding taxes they collected to the Board of Internal Revenue, but the management of the commercial banks vehemently denied it.
The banks are rather protesting what they termed “sundry exorbitant taxes and levies slammed on us by the Board of Internal Revenue”.
Some of the bank executives, who preferred anonymity lamented that these charges ranged between N250 million to over N650 million.
“Apart from being a blatant lie, these demands are arbitrary and possibly designed by some people in the system to defraud the banks”, a bank executive told Vanguard.
While insisting that none of the banks is in default of payment of any form of tax due to government, the man urged government to feel very free to come and painstakingly scrutinize their books with a view to resolving the issue.
“Instead of responding to this invitation, the state government went and secretly obtained a court order restraining some of us from discharging our duties to the citizenry”, the man said.
Answering another question, the man lamented that on the scheduled date for another meeting, BIR officials were absent and only said that “Government House had taken over the issue”.
Vanguard however gathered that since the Governor and the State House of Assembly were yet to reply their letters, as at press time, the banks may be heading towards shutting down on their own.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Special Duties, Sir Jude Ejiogu, who doubles as the Chief of Staff, urged the banks to tell Imo people the truth.
According to Ejiogu, “some bank refused to pay their statutory taxes to government for reasons best known to them”.