Governor Adams Oshiomhole
Hundreds of customers of First Bank of Nigeria Plc in Benin City, Edo State, were stranded Thursday as they could not transact business with the bank because the Edo State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) sealed all branches of the bank over alleged tax default.
But reacting to the development, Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, First Bank, Mrs. Folake Ani-Mumuney, insisted that the bank is up to date in terms of fulfilling all its tax obligations in Edo as well as other states where it is located.
Workers of the bank were seen gathered in clusters at their various branches discussing the matter. They, however, declined to comment on the issue.
Some of the customers, who could not make withdrawal or deposits vented their anger on workers who were seen around, while others banged on the gates of the bank, raining unprintable words on management of the bank for failing to pay their tax.
Customers worst affected were those paying in or posting money. Some of those making withdrawals, however, resorted to Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at branches with the machines outside the bank building.
"This is very, very irresponsible and disappointing. Why will First Bank, of all the banks, fail to pay the tax they deducted from their staff salary? It is embarrassing, disgraceful, disappointing and against national interest. How do they expect the state government to complete most of the projects they are working on, most of which are also to the benefits of the bank and its workers.
"How do I transfer this money to my daughter who needs the money at school this morning? Do they expect those who came to deposit large sum of money to move about with their money? That is risky and unsafe," said Kate, one of the customers.
The bank's indebtedness in tax default could not be ascertained as calls made to the mobile phone of the Chairman of the Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Oseni Elamah for confirmation was not answered.
However, Ani-Mumuney, said: “The management of First Bank hereby states that it remains an institution that has held the finest tradition of good corporate citizenship since its inception in 1894. The situation in Edo is purely legal and all parties are working towards resolving the issue amicably. We urge our esteemed customers to bear with us; normal banking activities will be restored shortly.”