The House of Representatives on Tuesday directed all the companies operating in the country to immediately pay up all the outstanding tax owed Federal Government.
The resolution was passed by the House Committee on Public Petitions chaired by Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, during the investigation into the tax evasion allegation leveled against Aridolf Jo Resort Wellness and Spa Limited, owned by the former First Lady, Patience Jonathan by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
While Federal Inland Revenue Service alleged that the company owed the sum of N10,117,500 tax including VAT between 2014 and 2016, the petitioner argued that the company had paid all its taxes in line with extant laws.
According to the documents submitted to the Committee, the company paid the sums of N38,700 and N43,330 were paid as tax on the 4th October 2016 and 30th August 2016 respectively, as contained in the FIRS receipts.
Sequel to the investigation initiated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) leveled against the former First Lady, some accounts linked with the Patience Jonathan were frozen including $15 million domiciled in Skye Bank, on the directive of the Commission.
Joined in the suit are: Managing Directors of Ecobank, Diamond, Union Bank and Fidelity Bank as well as FIRS.
However, the lawmakers directed all the affected banks to unfreeze all the accounts not directly involved in the ongoing investigation initiated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The resolution was passed during the investigative public hearing held at the instance of House Committee on Public Petitions, into the alleged ‘persisstent, consistent and unwarranted personal attacks and harassment by operatives of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Drugs and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Kingsley Chinda, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts who expressed displeasure over the spate of tax evasion in the country, note that the House will not condone any form of disregard for the financial regulations either by an individual or corporate entity.
The lawmakers mandated the petitioner and the banks to reconcile the grey areas within 14 days to reconcile the account and re-appear before the Committee on the 4th October 2017.
While speaking, officials of Union Bank led by its lawyer, Kenneth Otowo, informed the lawmakers that the bank placed Jonathan’s account under a ‘precautionary restriction’ following a directive by the EFCC.
“We received a communication from EFCC to put a precautionary restriction on the account. The letter was dated March 21, 2016, so we had to act based on that,” one of the Union Bank Director disclosed.
In his intervention, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions also directed EFCC and the Banks to unfreeze all accounts that are not directly involved in the pending cases under investigation.
While frowning at the refusal of EFCC operatives to honour the Committee’s invitation and summons, Nkem-Abonta noted that the EFCC chairman should have sent representatives to respond to various issues relating to the petition.
The Abia lawmaker who frowned at the fiat directive issued by the Commission to the petitioner’s banks, noted that the bank could only take such decision if EFCC proved that it has obtained a court order to that effect.
“Until EFCC proves otherwise, I’ll ask you to remove the precautionary restriction on the account. Let me tell you, whatever you’ll do, you must follow the law. A bank can’t hold a legal entity to ransom.
“I want to order all other banks that all the accounts that you have no specific pending order from the courts or EFCC, please release them,” Nkem-Abonta said.
Meanwhile, the Committee read Riot Act to Ibrahim Magu, EFCC chairman over his failure to appear before it.
To this end, the Committee adopted the motion sponsored by Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers), who called for Magu’s arrest and presented before the panel on the next adjourned date for refusing to honour their invitations.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja