Hoteliers in Kwara appealed to Gov. Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq on Saturday to save them from harassment, coercion, intimidation, extortion and unlawful locking up of their facilities by the state’s revenue agency.
They alleged that officials of Kwara Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) regularly locked up their hotels without court order and that the action could lead to a collapse of the hospitality industry in the state.
President of the Association of Hotel Owners in Kwara, Alhaji Dauda Akande, and its General Secretary, Mr Babatunde Oladunmoye, represented the hoteliers in making the appeal.
They alleged that KWIRS regularly used the police to harass, intimidate, arrest, detain and charge members with criminal offences.
They alleged also that there was complete lack of synergy between KWIRS and the ministries, departments and agencies responsible for fixing and negotiating taxes and levies.
They stated that the lack of synergy had resulted in the serving of “crazy bills’’ on hoteliers as demand notices.
“Our members are not in the position to pay the huge bills under the current national economic situation.
“Currently our members pay more than 20 different taxes and levies to the federal, state and local governments.
“Over regulation and multiplicity of taxes is currently a huge disincentive to investments in Kwara’s hospitality and tourism industry,’’ they stated.
The officials stated also that association members were regularly served inaccurate demand notices that included bills dating back to the Covid-19 era when the pandemic demanded the shutting of all hotels.
“The collapse of the hotel business in Kwara will result in job losses and an increase in crime rates.
“We request that commercial properties paying commercial land charges to Kwara State Geographic Information Service should be exempted from business premises levy because this amounts to double taxation on the commercial property.
“Agencies established for social services like Kwara Environmental Protection Agency, and the Fire Service should be well-funded by government and not be converted to revenue-generating agencies with yearly revenue targets.
“Business associations should be allowed to pay taxes and levies from their members directly to government revenue accounts.
“This is to prevent extortion and diversion of percentages of the taxes and levies to private pockets through collusion and conspiracies,’’ the association stressed.
It warned KWIRS to stop locking hotels without court order since it could not be the judge in its own case, adding that the agency should follow due process in all tax matters.
“Our association may have no other choice than to approach a court of competent jurisdiction for redress if the locking up of our hotels without due process continues,’’ the association also warned.
Responding to the allegations, however, Head of Corporate Affairs at the KWIRS, Mrs Titi Ogunwale, explained that both parties had been engaged in series of dialogues and discussions.
She expressed surprise at the hoteliers’ allegations and explained that meetings were held and resolutions were made on how to resolve issues.
“I am surprised to see this coming up again; we have had continuous collaborations with all associations in the state.
“If they are not happy, they can invite us or we invite them for discussion, which we have been doing.
“We held meetings two weeks ago and resolution was made by both parties. I do not know where all these claims they are making are coming from,’’ she said.
Ogunwale explained that KWIRS had already explained the legal procedure on what should be done to the hoteliers.
She observed that the association’s allegations would not help matters and that KWIRS would continue to educate relevant stakeholders on the issue of taxation.
She stressed that the position of the law was that anyone engaged in business activities in the state and was making profit, must pay taxes.
She noted that where business owners were running at a loss, they were not required to pay any tax as long as they present their evidences to the service.
The KWIRS spokesperson explained that the agency only collect taxes based on assessment by relevant ministries and does not generate the bills.
Ogunwale stressed that the agency was not rigid and explained that where there were complaints, “business owners can reach out to the relevant ministry, which will in turn communicate decisions to KWIRS’’.