Enforcement officers from the Federal Inland Revenue Service from Abuja stormed Rivers State on Monday and sealed off Lafarge in Onne and IGPES in Port Harcourt for alleged tax evasion.
While the cement company was sealed for allegedly failing to pay over N10m in taxes; IGPES, an engineering firm, was shut for allegedly evading tax to the tune N1.2bn.
Speaking shortly after sealing off the two companies, the leader of the FIRS team, Mrs. Ruth Mandeun, warned their managements to pay the outstanding taxes to allow for the reopening of the firms.
Mandeun also cautioned the managements of the companies not to forcefully open the seals and padlocks used in locking up the premises.
She explained that the two firms defaulted through the non-remittance of their Value Added Tax, Company Income Tax, Withholding Tax, Education Tax and late return penalty.
The leader of the FIRS team stated that while IGPES began to default in the remittance of taxes in 2011, Lafarge had not paid taxes since 2012.
Mandeun said, “Breaking of our seals is a criminal offence and anybody involved in such an act will be prosecuted. It is either you pay every kobo you are owing or we seal your premises. We have the mandate to do that.
“The purpose of this exercise is to seal off the entire offices of offending companies. If you are willing to pay within the next one hour, then you will be allowed to operate.”
However, a senior official of IGPES, who gave her name as Esther James, said the company had been paying in instalments in its bid to offset the taxes owed.
James, who pleaded with the FIRS team to change the decision to seal off the company, added that IGPES paid N65m on Friday as part of the agreement to pay the outstanding taxes in bits.