Some hotel guests and workers were left stranded after the Enugu state internal revenue service sealed some hotels for tax evasion in compliance with an order obtained from the High Court.
The Enugu State Government, represented by ESIRS, sought a court order to compel respondents to settle their outstanding staff members’ pay-as-you-earn tax, development levy, and companies withholding tax owed to the state government.
This pertained to the period from 2015 to 2020 for some entities and 2018 to 2021 for others.
Following the court order, the revenue agency’s enforcement team took action by sealing several defaulting hotels and businesses early on Friday for tax evasion.
However, complications arose when the agency’s team sealed and locked up these hotels, preventing guests and workers from leaving the premises.
La Virgin Suites & Residence was among the affected hotels where high-profile guests missed early morning flights and business engagements due to being unable to exit the premises.
Similar situations occurred at other affected hotels, with only guests without cars permitted to leave through back gates, while main gates remained shut.
Additionally, taxi drivers trying to pick up clients found their vehicles locked in by the enforcement team.
A taxi driver said, “I came to the hotel here to pick up my client who had a 7:40 am flight. As I drove into the hotel premises and started calling my client that I was around, I noticed the unusual movement of people who looked like task force people.
“I didn’t bother myself as I thought they were there for their own business. It was when my client emerged from his room around 7:25 am that I started driving back towards the gates but nobody was there to open the gate for me.
“That was when I realised that we had been locked in by the tax collectors. I also noticed that some other businessmen who tried to leave for their businesses became helpless as the task force men told anyone who cared to call the governor.”
An anonymous hotel operator in the city lamented the reduced patronage of their establishments, attributing it to the prevailing economic conditions.
He said, “It is very difficult for lots of people, especially an average Nigerian, to start visiting and spending in hotels during this period of hardship. We have tried to explain to the government but they won’t understand.”
Speaking to reporters after the operation, Ekene Nnamani, Chairman of the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service, revealed that a tax audit revealed numerous institutions had failed to fulfill their tax responsibilities for the preceding seven years.
Nnamani added, “We even served them the intention to sue them in court and when those things failed, we instituted a case against them in our courts, after the court had heard our applications, they rejected some asking us to go and do more work on them, and then granted us an order for 16 corporate entities who had failed to comply with the tax laws.
“Let them go and pay their tax. So, our intention is not actually to destroy businesses, but to announce to the whole people of Enugu that we are not joking with our taxes.”