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?Customers stranded

The Imo State government Thursday sealed up bank premises in Owerri the Imo State capital, for their failure to pay the state,withholding tax on interest paid to customers.

The action led the banks to shut down operations in protest against the state government, a reaction that left bank customers stranded.

247ureports.com gathered that the exercise started as early as 5 am and lasted till 10am Thursday, and as at 1pm, all banks were still under lock and key while customers were seen hanging around, with some begging the banks security and staff to allow them use their ATM machines for withdrawal of cash.

Some of the customers who spoke with 247ureports.com, expressed disappointment over the issue.

A customer who gave his name as Chinaka Nnanaemere, regretted that the shutting of the banks had cost him his business trip to Abuja as he could no longer pay for the booking of his air ticket.

However, those who could, had to go to Aba, Onitsha or Umuahia to make their transactions.

Briefing journalists in Owerri, the state commissioner for Internal Resources and Pension Affairs, Mr. Nick Oparandudu, said the Board of Internal Revenue(BIR) took the action in exercise of its statutory powers.

He said the action was taken in compliance with a court injunction granted the BIR, authorising it to stop the affected banks from operating on failure to adhere to the repeated demand of the board for them to fulfill their statutory obligations.

Mr. Oparandudu explained that the action was taken as a last resort because of the banks? non-compliance with the provisions of the law.

He said that the board used that action to send a clear signal to all organisations and institutions operating in the state on the importance of meeting their statutory obligations to the and its citizens.

The commissioner expressed hope that the affected banks would take immediate steps clearing the backlog of taxes owed the government in order for them to continue doing business in the state.

Mr. Oparandudu regretted that Imo state had the lowest compliance of tax in Nigeria and appealed to business operators in the state to cooperate with the government because it is a business-friendly state.

He urged all financial or business institutions operating in the state to meet their  statutory obligations with respect to taxes and other approved levies when they are due, because according to him, the government needed all monies and resources at its disposal in order to continue its massive infrastructural development in the state.

He said the act was not that of impunity, adding that his ministry would not use thugs to enforce compliance.

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