Owerri Municipal council in odd tax scandal
The richest Local Government Area in Imo State, Owerri Municipal has been caught in the web of odd Tax scandal following its recent demand for tax payment from hospitals within its jurisdiction for Radio and TV licenses. A copy of the odd demand notice for Radio-TV license sighted by Nigerian Newsguide and addressed to one of the hospitals in the Council Area stated thus;
“In exercise of powers conferred on LGAs under the fourth schedule, 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria and Imo state LGA Administration law No. 15 both as amended, and Owerri Municipal Bye-laws; all applicable to Owerri Municipal and in compliance to your civic responsibilities under the law, Owerri Municipal Council Authority hereby demands from you payment of the under-listed rates for the year 2020 as follows; Radio/Television license (Arears rate-N50,000, current rate-N50,000, Amount-N100,000)”.
The demand notice dated 17-11-2020 was served by one John Ekwebelem, purportedly a consultant for Owerri Municipal Council with UBA account number: 1013440359 in favour of the said “consultant” and was signed by one Engr. Emma Okorie on behalf of the Transition Committee Chairman for Owerri Muncipal Area. The said consulttant’s address is 12 Stanley Drive, Prefab Housing Estate, Owerri has its office contact as 09138057875.
According to the notice, if the hospitals affected fail to make payment before the expiration of the 7-days window of grace, the Council would have no other option than to activate a litigation process against erring hospitals through its Finance Department. The notice bears OWMC/EJ/080/20 as its reference number.
Some Medical Doctors, hospital owners and members of the public who spoke to our reporter on the subject matter described the development as odd, weird and unheard of anywhere in the world including in banana republics.
“How can you ask hospitals to pay for radio and television licenses? So Owerri Muncipal Council is now National Broadcasting Commission-NBC and hospitals have suddenly become radio and television houses to now pay for licenses. This is absurd please and madness taken too far and I sincerely do not want to belief that Owerri Municipal Council is actually making such a stupid demand. I call on NBC and Imo state government to wade into this matter with a view to unraveling the mystery behind such odd tax scandal and perpetrators/ impersonators of Owerri Municipal in this regard if caught, must be severely punished according to the laws of the land”- one of those interviewed enthused.
Efforts made to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the story from the Treasurer Owerri Municipal Council, Nicholas Obilatu yielded no result as at press time.
The Treasurer who is more or less the Director of Finance in the local government was said not to be on seat when our reporter visited the council headquarters.