The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has cried out over lockup of their eight floor tower on Aba Road in Port Harcourt by agents of the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS).
It was gathered that the RIRS operatives stormed the secretariat which is seen as the busiest spot in the Niger Delta and chained up the wide gates and left with the keys. It is not clear how workers left the impounded complex.
The RIRS is said to be angered by what they called arrears of tax returns from 2013 but the NDDC contended that the present board has dutifully paid up since it came up in 2016. The NDDC expressed dismay over the disruption of activities at its headquarters.
Speaking on behalf of Nsima Ekere, the NDDC Managing Director, the Special Assistant on Media, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, said the Commission was surprised by the development, “because the Commission had already begun paying the Revenue Service the arrears under question.”
Amu-Nnadi explained: “About two weeks ago, the Commission met with the tax enforcement team and started negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues. We understand that there is a court order. But it’s important for us to state that the Commission, as a responsible corporate organisation, had begun to attend to all obligations as agreed.
“Last week, the Commission paid the first tranche. They will receive the next tranche this week. This is a sign of goodwill and commitment on the side of the Commission to meet these obligations.”
Mr. Amu-Nnadi expressed dismay at the actions of the RIRS officials, noting that blocking the premises of the Commission was an unnecessary embarrassment and does not match the Commission’s goodwill.
He stated: “It is very surprising that even though we have begun paying these arrears dating back to 2013, which the current board inherited, we still have to deal with this little impasse. And mind you, over the past two years, the current Board has paid all the Commission’s tax obligations as at when due.”
Manson Endeboh, the RIRS Director who led the enforcement team, said that the tax agency took the action for the NDDC allegedly owing the Rivers State government withholding tax.
He, however, conceded that the Commission had made some payments but that it came after they approached the court for an exparte order to seal the office.
The lock-up soon after the Ekiti elections issues have already sent tongues wagging in different direction as to what could be the motive for the clampdown on such a federal agency. Others wonder if the action was a show of muscle to federal agencies but it could be recalled that the court process came far before the Ekiti loss.
Also, Gov Nyesom Wike had complained bitterly during his world press conference on May 28, 2018 that the NDDC was withholding huge funds paid by the state government for a counterpart funded project (Mother and Chid Hospital) which the state government had to take over at higher cost. The host state government had also sparred with the NDDC over who actually constructed certain roads especially in Etche area. The governor had once accused the commission of not carrying the governors along.