The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed commercial banks in Niger State to remain on strike until the State Internal Revenue Service withdraws tax levied against them.
A message by one of the affected banks branch managers to his staff obtained by Daily Trust cited the apex bank to have given the directive at a banker’s committee meeting on Thursday with the CBN Branch Controller in Minna.
“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. 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,” the message read.
A bank staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity told our correspondent that the directive by CBN followed information that the state board of internal revenue will likely shut the remaining banks on Monday.
“I think the plan to seal the remaining banks tomorrow. So, the banks went and meet with the CBN, and that’s when they told them to shut down completely,” he said.
The Minna Branch of Zenith that was reluctant to join the strike on Friday was immediately queried by the Banker’s Committee.
A mail shared among the officials of the banker’s committee obtained by Daily Trust, quoted the committee expressing displeasure for Zenith Bank’s failure to immediately complied with the order.
“All banks shut down as at 9am in compliance to the shutdown directive with the exception of Zenith Bank due to their claim of not been able to get approval to shut down. This prompted a meeting at the CBN conference room with the Branch Controller where it was agreed that a letter of displeasure signed by all bank representatives and the CBN is sent to Zenith Bank.”
“As it stands, all banks in Minna are currently shut down with the directive that ATMs should be equally shut down. The Branch Controller, CBN Minna said if we don’t get any response from Niger State Board of Internal Revenue, the action should continue on Monday 13th September 2021,” the email read.
In another mail after the meeting, the banker’s committee threatened that until Niger State board of internal revenue reopened the sealed banks and withdrew “bogus tax claims levied against the DMBs” the shutdown will continue.
The customers have expressed worry over the continuous closure, and called on the government and banks to come together to resolve the problem.
A customer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the POS that left as alternative for customers to access their cash was not reliable.
He said, “Apart from charges, there is also of hacking people’s account now by POS agents. So, I don’t like using POS for any transaction.”
However, the Special Adviser, Media and Communications, Niger State internal revenue service, Hussaini Abdulrahman described the strike by the banks as an attempt to blackmail the state internal revenue service.
“This strike was instigated by the Access Bank. a letter was written to Access Bank to come forward and clear their outstanding debt. Instead of responding in the right way, they went and manipulate 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,” Abdulrahman said.
Also, the Board of Internal Revenue in an official statement on Sunday said it was not deterred by the collaboration between the CBN and commercial banks in the state to threatened the board.
“‘It is unfortunate that a body with which the Revenue Service has no transactions, will collaborate with CBN officials to threaten the Service from performing its lawful duty of collections of revenue on behalf of Niger state government,” the statement said.
The board said that six of the eight banks originally sealed had fulfilled part of its demand and were already unsealed pending further reconciliation.
The statement therefore appealed to the people of the state especially those whose branches remain sealed to impress on their banks to settle their outstanding tax liability to enable them meet their customers daily financial obligations.
Daily Trust reports that eight banks and three other companies were sealed last week Monday for their failure to pay a total tax liability of N460m to the coffers of the state government.