CBN directs banks in Niger to continue strike amid tax crisis

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed commercial banks in Niger state to continue the strike until the state’s internal revenue service reverses the taxes levied against them.

On September 7, the Niger State Internal Revenue Service sealed branches of eight commercial banks, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), and two other organisations over alleged N456.7 million unpaid tax liability.

Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank, First Bank, United Bank for Africa, Heritage, Polaris, Unity, Union, and Stanbic IBTC, were the affected banks.

DailyTrust had reported that commercial banks in Niger state embarked on an indefinite strike on September 8 following the disagreement with the state’s revenue board over tax evasion.

It also reported that all ATM centres were shut by banks, leaving customers to make use of POS services as an alternative option.

In a recent report, one of the affected bank branch managers told them that the apex bank gave the directive at a bankers’ committee meeting with the CBN branch controller in Minna, Niger state capital, last week.

“Dear colleagues, kindly be informed that we are shutting down services with immediate effect. This is mandated by CBN Branch Controller in the meeting with Banks yesterday,” the statement reads.

“It is in protest against Niger State Government’s outrageous tax levies against banks in the state. Kindly attend to the customers in front of you and clear out.”

According to DailyTrust, the CBN Minna branch controller said: “If we don’t get any response from Niger State Board of Internal Revenue, the action should continue on Monday 13th September, 2021.”

It stated that the bankers’ committee threatened in a follow-up email that unless the Niger state Board of Internal Revenue reopened the closed banks and retracted “bogus tax claims levied against the DMBs,” the strike will continue.

Hussaini Abdulrahman, Niger state Internal Revenue Service special adviser on media and communications, said the strike by commercial banks is an attempt to blackmail the revenue agency.

“This strike was instigated by the Access Bank. A letter was written to Access Bank to come forward and clear their outstanding debt,” Abdulrahman said.

“Instead of responding in the right way, they went and manipulated other banks using Bankers Committee and started the strike.

“About six banks earlier sealed have made substantial payments. Rashida Restaurant paid N1.5m out of the N3m it owed the state.

AEDC had also made some payments and they have been unsealed.”