WARRI – Warri, the oil city had a taste of the seriousness of the determination of the Federal Inland Revenue Service when its officials swopped on the town and sealed a number of firms including hotels.
For guests and management of Golden Tulip, Warri Airports Hotels, Effurun, it was a massive show of embarrassment Uvwie as the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, on Tuesday evening sealed the hotel for tax liabilities.
The team which went around Warri and Effurun to seal defaulting companies showed early sign of seriousness when they sealed Kevwe Construction Company, Okwokoko, for N84.4 million VAT default but granted Ishaka Hotels and Tebelos Hotels, both along Refinery Road, Effurun, a day grace based on their undertaking to resolve their liabilities.
Led by Anita Erine, the tax body’s enforcement team showed no mercy, and brooked no intervention from any quarters as they insisted that defaulting firms, especially Golden Tulip hotel which has accumulated Value Added Tax liabilities of over N15.6Million through 2014 to 2016 years of assessment must pay or show evidence that they have paid before any discussions could take place.
According to Ms Erine: “The chairman of FIRS, Dr. Babatunde Fowler, has signed a warrant of distraint to seal this company (Golden Tulip) and the only way we can do otherwise is for you to pay up what you owe or show proof that you have paid.”
Efforts by one of the management staff on ground to explain that the hotel has not been in operation from the said assessment period proved abortive as the enforcement team insisted on documentary proof.
The FIRS team also rejected appeal by the hotel staff that she should speak to the owner, a former minister and Delta politician. The enforcement team leader repeatedly insisted, “Sorry, we are not allowed to speak to people on phone. If you have no proof of payment, we are sealing you.”
The encounter got to a climax after nearly an hour of exchange as the FIRS team, aided by mobile policemen went round the hotel rooms, alerting guests and staff to vacate the premises before placing its seals on the entrances and its gates chained under lock and key.