Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
At least eight commercial banks were on Monday sealed by the Enugu state government for alleged failure to remit about N1 billion in taxes to the coffers of the state government.
The banks with combined branch network of 36 branches within Enugu metropolis and the neighbouring towns of Agbani and Ituku Ozalla were sealed at about 6am by officials of the State Board of Internal Revenue who were accompanied by mobile policemen.
The affected banks were Access Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC, Skye Bank, Union Bank, Unity Bank, Heritage Bank, Keystone Bank and Sterling Bank.
Briefing journalists after the “sting operation”, the chairman of the board, Emeka Odo said the board had earlier on February 6 and 16, 2017 obtained exparte orders from the State High Court to restrain the affected banks.
He said the affected banks would remain under lock and key until they remit to the state government all the taxes they had collected and withheld.
He noted that government had encouraged individual tax payers and tax agents to comply voluntarily by paying their taxes promptly, explaining that the process of remittances of government revenues have been reformed in order to make it easy for banks to pay their taxes like other corporate citizens.
“In the past one year, we have written the affected banks severally and held meetings with them on the subject matter but they would rather hold on to government funds illegally. “The action of these banks has been denying the state government of the funds it needs to execute its developmental programmes with would impact positively on the lives of the people.
“The sealing of the banks is the first phase of the enforcement exercise on major companies and institutions, to ensure that they perform their civic obligation to the state government,” Odo said.
He insisted that it was wrong for banks to collect withholding tax from its customers on behalf of the government and still do not remit it.