The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has once more raised concern over the continued sealing off of telecoms offices across the country by government officials.
ALTON, was particularly worried about the 9mobile case, where its Port Harcourt regional office was sealed off by the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) for the past three weeks for alleged tax liability.
The Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Ggenga Adebayo, said the rate at which government agencies seal off telecoms offices across the country was on the rise. He therefore called on the federal government to intervene quickly to save telecommunications operations in the country from collapse.
Adebayo, who had already written to the Chairman of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service, on the matter, called on the appropriate authority to prevail on Rivers State Internal Revenue Service to unseal the office immediately.
Copies of the letter were sent to the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); the National Security Adviser, (NSA); Minister of Finance; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment; as well as to the Secretary, Joint Task Board (JTF).
THISDAY gathered that the RIRS had compelled 9mobile to make a payment of 30 per cent of the alleged sum amounting to N32.4 million as a pre-condition to re-opening the regional office.
Part of the letter written by ALTON to the Rivers State revenue agency reads: â€œWe understand that the sealing of EMTS Premises (9mobile) is to compel the collection of alleged tax liability in the subject amount, which represents its disputed outstanding tax liability arising from Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) of expatriates, erroneously believed by the RIRS to be subject to tax within the Rivers State.
â€œAs you know PAYE obligations are to states in which the employees reside, therefore, since EMTS did not have any expatriate(s) on its payroll who were residing in Rivers State within the assessment period, EMTS is clearly not indebted to the government of Rivers State for the alleged tax.
â€œEMTS had, at several meetings and by various correspondence explained and maintained that it is not indebted to the government of Rivers State as alleged by the RIRS, as it has never had expatriate employees working or residing in the state, and provided relevant documents in support of its position.
â€œBased on our findings, we wish to categorically reiterate that EMTS is not indebted to the government of Rivers State and that the sealing of EMTSâ€™ Premises is illegal, especially as it was carried out without a court order and without adherence to the due process of law.â€