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ALTON frowns at sealing of 9mobile’s premises by Rivers State Govt

The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has expressed displeasure on the recent sealing of the business premises of Emerging markets telecommunications Service Limited (EMTS) by the officials of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) in Port Harcourt.

ALTON is an industry body of all licensed telecommunications operators in Nigeria and is duly registered under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and recognized as an industry representative by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and other Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

In a statement signed by the chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, ALTON said “We received with surprise the complaint from one of our members, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited, (‘EMTS’ or ‘9Mobile’) that the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) has since the 26th of June 2018 sealed off its Port Harcourt Regional Office (“EMTS Premises”).

“We understand that the sealing of EMTS Premises 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.

Just like EMTS in a separate statement, ALTON joined in the argument that “As 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. EMTS 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”.

However, ALTON averred further that “Based on our findings, we wish to categorically reiterate that EMTS is not indebted to the Government of Rivers State and that the sealing of EMTS’ Premises is illegal, especially as it was carried out without a court order and without adherence to the due process of law. The conduct of the RIRS in this regard, apart from being a clear contravention of the law, goes against the efforts of Government at improving Nigeria’s position on the global Ease of Doing Business index, to encourage foreign investment. Also by applying self-help remedies especially in a situation where the claim is erroneous, the RIRS has portrayed the State in very bad light as unfriendly and not welcoming of investors”.

Accordingly, ALTON said “We also wish to draw your attention to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) directive that no government agency should seal any BTS site as they are designated Critical National Infrastructure. In this instance the directive has clearly been contravened by RIRS in sealing 9Mobile Premises where a Critical Site is also situated, which has become inaccessible with the attendant security implications”.