‘Seun Ibukun-Oni

Daily Courier – The Oyo State Board of Internal Revenue says it sealed off offices of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) a day after the company disconnected Oyo state secretariat over its 450 million unpaid bills.

The management of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) in a press release, informed its customers of what it termed retaliatory and illegal action of Oyo State Government over suspicious taxes which led to the sealing of its offices.

Some of the offices affected in Wednesday’s action included the company’s headquarters in Ring Road, Ibadan and its offices at Mobil, off Ring Road, Dugbe, Ojoo/Iwo Road office as well as Monatan, all in Ibadan.

The statement by the distribution company reads: “The Oyo State Government on Wednesday 9th February, 2022 commenced the sealing of our offices within the state over some suddenly contrived debts labelled revenue bills and personal income without due notification. This issue of revenue bills and personal income arising now is quite suspicious.

“This was contained in a statement signed by Chief Operating Officer, Engr. John Ayodele. He said the Oyo State Government is owing IBEDC a whopping consumption outstanding of 450 million naira for over a period of three years.

” Engr Ayodele explained that as part of effort to get the outstanding paid initiated several engagements through correspondences and physical meetings, but all these efforts yielded no results. “No business in this country can run successfully with such a huge outstanding, the power we distribute to customers must be accounted for and paid for, we have no option but to disconnect Oyo State Government secretariat, so it is worrisome to see that the government has sealed off our offices with this underhand and arm twisting tactics, instead of paying the debt owe. This was not done in good faith and it will have damaging effect on the business and service delivery to our customers.” Engr Ayodele further explained.

The Board of Oyo State Board of Internal Revenue, in a statement issued on Wednesday by its chairman, Femi Awakan, said the State Government duly obtained a restraining order of the Oyo State High Court, before sealing some of the offices of the distribution company.

The State Government had applied for the warrant to enforce the payment through suit No. M/122/2022, which has the Governor of Oyo State, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and the Board of Internal Revenue Service of Oyo State as applicants, while IBEDC is the respondent.

According to the statement, the state government had, in line with its avowed commitment to the observance of the rule of law, filed an application before Justice O.M Olagunju, seeking the issuance of a warrant authorising its officers to “distrain upon any land, premises or places of which the respondent (IBEDC) is the owner.”

The court order is to enable the state government to enforce the payment of arrears of taxes to the tune of N400,546,111,41k, being taxes accumulated by the IBEDC in respect of Harmonised bills, Infrastructure bills, Tax Audit bills and Signage bills, and which the company has failed to pay in the last two years.

A breakdown of the bills is shown as follows:

· Harmonised Bill- N139.440,000.00

· Infrastructure Bills – N122.590,000.00

· Tax Audit Bills – N116,516,111.41

· Signage Bills – N22,000,000.00.

“It is to be noted that the IBEDC has a statutory obligation to deduct and remit revenue bills to the government of Oyo State through the Board of Internal Revenue.

“It is also to be noted that the distribution company failed and neglected to remit any such personal income tax of its employees within the period under review and that the Board of Internal Revenue several times served requisite demand notices calling attention to the company’s tax liabilities/obligations”, the statement said.

Relying on section 45 of the Revenue Law of Oyo State, the presiding judge, Justice O.M Olagunju, issued the warrant and affirmed that: “Accordingly, I hereby issue a warrant in favour of the officers of the applicant (Oyo State Government) named in the schedule to this application authorising one or all of the named officers to distrain upon any land, premises or places of which the respondent is the owner particularly the respondents head office at Ring Road and Dugbe Ibadan for the purpose of enforcing payment of taxes in the sum of N226,756,000.41k only, representing its outstanding tax liability for the year 2021 of assessment which has become final and conclusive.”

Though the Court order affirmed the 2021 tax liabilities to the tune of N226,756,000.41, as final and conclusive for immediate enforcement, the total tax arrears payable by IBEDC is in excess of N400 million and this excludes Land Use Charges and others.

“Consequently, the Board of Internal Revenue, acting on the valid court order, put effect to the warrant and sealed off some of the offices of the IBEDC in order to enforce the payment of the outstanding bills”, the Revenue Board chairman added.

The Chief Operating Officer of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company appealed to the state governor, Engr Seyi Makinde to look into the matter in the interest of all concerned as this would further exacerbate the power challenges and pressure on residents and commercial activities within the state. “IBEDC engages in essential services to the public and the effect of this arm twisting tactics can at best be imagined if not quickly arrested” he said.