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Bayelsa accuses IOCs of tax evasion, seeks Buhari’s intervention

By News Express on 22/04/2016

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Gov. Seriake Dickson is seeking the intervention of the Presidency over tax evasion, flagrant disregard to laws and non-compliance by international oil firms operating in the state.

Dickson in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), dated April 18, 2016 and made available to newsmen on Thursday in Yenagoa, urged the president to intervene.

He wrote: “Our further position is that the Federal Government and its agencies should not condone or support irresponsible behaviour by these companies whose conduct subvert and undermine the authority of the State and our economy.

“Especially in the areas we have legislative authority such as Development Control, taxes permitted by Federal Laws and other legislations within the residual powers of the State.”

Dickson decried defaults by oil and gas companies operating in the state to pay taxes and levies over time.

Dickson therefore, urged the President to use his good offices to prevail on the companies concerned, who are licencees of the Federal Government, to comply with the laws of the state and that of the country.

But Dickson in his letter, chronicled the various negative exploration activities of the oil and gas companies operating in the state over a long period of time by refusing to pay land use service charges and development levies thereby impinging on the environment especially through spillage and indeed economy of the state.

He regretted, however, that the major oil firms have not been realistic by contributing proportionally to the economy and development of the state, a situation, he said, needed to be reversed.

“Sadly, the compliance level of the oil and gas exploration and production companies in payment of levies and taxes is very low and in fact, pitiable,” he stated.

While insisting that the situation, contravened the relevant legislations in the state, the governor accused the affected companies of not employing indigenes of the state nor awarding contracts to them.

He listed the taxes and levies to include Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Infrastructure Maintenance Charge or levy, Development levy, Land Use Charge, Environmental (Ecological) Fees or levies, Property tax and Business Premises Registration.

“Multinational Oil and Gas companies occupy large spaces of scarce land resource in the State without a commensurate contribution to the economy of the State. Beyond this, they also deliberately flout and contravene the laws of the State and of Nigeria. They do not pay taxes to the State. 

Said the Governor: “SPDC has never paid the Bayelsa State Infrastructure Maintenance Levy (BIM) since the commencement of the law in 2003.

“Additionally, none of these SPDC assets in the State have Development Permits. Consequently, no levies relating to and required for the procurement of Development Permit or other levies and taxes have ever been paid.

“For instance, the Gbaran Ubie Oil and Gas project was developed by SPDC on about 2 million sq. m of land   in Bayelsa State without a Development Permit and commissioned in 2010.

“This despite Stop-work orders and Notices since 2008 for SPDC to discontinue with the Development which had no Permit.

“Till date, SPDC has still not obtained a Development Permit and has continued to operate the illegal structure for 6 years. The State Government and its agencies are now enforcing compliance to applicable laws and standards,” Dickson stated.

Aside these listed cases of contraventions and non-compliances, Dickson also said that other applicable taxes and levies are not being paid or complied with by any of the listed Oil and Gas Companies.

“Mr. President, the Government of Bayelsa State is concerned that the Oil and Gas Companies deliberately flout and contravene the laws of State and Nigeria in particular, the State environmental laws, the Physical Planning and Development law and other State and national laws that bring tax and levy revenues to Bayelsa State.

“While we have played host to some of these companies, some since 1956, these companies have not contributed much to the economic development of the State, needless to say the numerous security issues the State has had to manage on account of their operations and the attendant degradation of the environment occasioned by their activities.

“Unfortunately, these Oil and Gas Companies have neglected, refused and failed to comply with extant laws. Rather, they use their preeminent position as the main drivers of the economy and their connections with officials and agencies of the Federal Government to frustrate and undermine the economy and authority of the State to avoid meeting their tax and other statutory obligations.

“Our State has clearly borne the brunt of the operations of all these multi-nationals all these years. Our position as a federating unit under the Constitution and laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is that the mining and Operating Licences, exclusively granted by the Federal Government, cannot be used as a basis for avoiding responsible behaviour required by the laws of Bayelsa State.

“The Government of Bayelsa State assures Mr. President that its agencies and officials will follow due process in the enforcement of all the laws of the State in this regard.

“In all cases, the laws of the State have made provisions for judicial intervention where parties shall have opportunities to ventilate their grievances if dissatisfied.

“It is our expectation that the Federal Government will instruct all our Federal Agencies, particularly the Security Forces, not to obstruct the due processes of enforcement of our state laws or be used to harass or intimidate State officials or citizens involved in the process of enforcement of the Tax and other laws of the state.

“In any such event to contrary, we shall have no option than to seek judicial redress to preserve our integrity as a State and guarantee our economic survival.

“Mr. President, under these circumstances, I humbly urge you to use your esteemed and good office to prevail on these companies, who are licensees of the Federal Government, to comply with the laws of the State and of our Country.”

Officials of SPDC and Chevron declined comments on the allegations.

Mr Joseph Obari, SPDC Spokesman has yet to respond to a request for comments on the development.

Also Mr Sola Adebaawo, Manager in Charge of Communications and Government Relations, is yet to respond to a request for reaction.

•Photo shows Governor Dickson.


Source News Express

Posted 22/04/2016 04:45:14 AM


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