ROW: Akwa Ibom Yet To Recover Billions From Telcos

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AKIRS

Billions of Naira on taxes accruable from Right of Way (ROW) are yet to be paid to Akwa Ibom government by telecommunication, oil and gas companies operating in the state, Straightnews has gathered.

The taxes are expected from such telecommunication companies, oil and gas companies as MTN, Airtel, Glo, 9Mobile and Dangote Refinery, UNICEM and ALSCON.

Investigation by Straightnews shows that despite the enactment of the bill into law in 2014, the government did not enforce the law mandating telcos to pay the taxes accruable from Right of Way to government.

Entitled: Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria Gazette NO. 1 of 6th March, 2014 VOL. 20 (AKSLN NO. 1 of 2014 Land Use (fees) Regulations 2014), the law became operational seven years ago.

A copy of Land Use (Fees) Regulations, 2014 obtained by Straightnews clearly stipulates different rates payable under the Oil & Gas Company matters to govenrment.

Under Annual Ground Rent, N20 million was the old rate charged per metre every year for oil prospecting company while N2000 is the new rate charged per metre yearly.

Under Registration of Fresh Right of Way licence for OPL (Other Petroleum Licences) and OML (Oil Mineral Licence), N2 million was the old rate charged on pipeline Right of Way per metre while N5 million is the new rate charged for the same purpose.

For OPL and OML licence renewal, N1 million was the old rate while N2 million is the new rate.

However, Governor Udom Emmanuel sealed another law: AKS LN. NO. 1 of 2020. Land Use (Fee) Regulations. The law took effect on January 1, 2020, though Government Printer published it on authority on March 19, 2020.

By this new law, the Land Use (Fee) Regulations, 2014 was revoked and amended.

A copy of the law obtained by Straightnews shows that under Section 10 of the 2020 law under Gas and Oil Company Matters, N2000.00/per metre run/pa was the old rate charged for Annual Ground Rent, but N10,000.00/per metre run/pa is the new rate.

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Under Registration of Fresh Right of Way Licence for OPL (Other Petroleum Licences) and OML (Oil Mineral Licence), N5 million was the old rate but the new rate has gone to N10 million.

Straightnews understands that under OPL and OML Licence Renewal, N2 million was the old rate but N5 million is to be collected as the new rate.

A source close to Akwa Ibom Internal Revenue Service, Uyo, confided in Straightnews, ”During this time, government had much money to play. That was the reason, the government did not care to write to the companies to pay their taxes as and when due.’’

”Government lost billions over the years due to ignorance of the government officials in writing and reminding the companies to pay the taxes.

”I peeped through one of the demand notices issued to a telecommunication company and the tax was more than N100 million. So, you can see that the government will collect more than N1 billion this year alone.

”The fortunate thing is that Supreme Court had ruled that taxes are not statute-barred. We are going to collect all the unpaid taxes and remit same into government purse,’’ an authoritative source in Akwa Ibom Internal Revenue Service, Banking Layout told Straightnews when our reporter visited the office.

An anonymous source close to the AKIRS Chairman commended Governor Udom Emmanuel for inaugurating the board, appointment of experienced and capable men and tasking them to think outside the box.

”This was the reason the team went into revenue books and uncovered these unpaid taxes; hence the need to issue demand notices for the telecos to clear their backlogs,’’ he stated..

A retired Director of AKIRS confided in Straightnews that ”Some of the companies used to pay to the government secretly, but such was not remitted to the government.’’

”The money was allegedly paid to a particular unit in Governor’s Office, Uyo and was not remitted to Board of Internal Revenue Service for record purposes,’’ another source who did not want his name in print, told Straightnews.

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This appeared to contradict the position of some executive directors in the state Internal Revenue Service that the present administration commenced enforcement of the payment of the taxes hence the first time the money to be paid, the online newspapers reasoned.