MANUFACTURERS, OGUN IN FACE-OFF OVER NEW LEVY
A new levy, Petroleum Product Storage Facility Assessment and Leakage Test levy, recently introduced by the Ogun State Government, through its Ministry of Environment, has pitted the government against manufacturers in the state, as the latter have indicated their readiness to resist the move.
The levy will mainly affect manufacturing companies. The levy, according to the state government, is a fee charged for conducting tests on leakages in storage facilities for fuel owned by the manufacturing companies. Fixed at N5 per litre, it is conservatively put at between N400, 000 to N800, 000, depending on the number of tanks owned by the company. However, manufacturers are still confused on whether the charge is to be charged on a monthly or yearly basis.
For instance, investigation by our correspondent revealed that 70 per cent of the manufacturing companies received bills for the test, which had not been conducted, last month.
When our correspondent contacted the state's ministry of environment, an official, who spoke under anonymity, confirmed the levy.
He however, said that it was still a proposal, 'which is yet to be presented to the state executive, not even yet house of assembly.'
'The tax is meant to prepare for cases of pipeline vandalism and fuel leakages in the manufacturing companies within the state, 'he said.
But our correspondent saw copies of the bill that were issued to some companies by a private consultancy firm, Efe Onorame Enterprises Limited. Officers of this agent-company were said to have been going from one manufacturing company to another, asking them to pay the bills. Such companies already visited included Nestle Plc and Nigeria Distillers Limited, among others.
Our correspondent exclusively got a copy of the resolution of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Ogun branch's meeting of August 18, 2010, on the subject, where the body ordered its members 'not to allow the ministry or its agent access to their premises for whatsoever reason.'
Besides, it said, 'members should not make any form of payment to the ministry or its agent as regard the afore-mentioned, until the secretariat is fully briefed.'
The implication, according to Chairman, Infrastructural Committee, MAN, Ogun State, Mr. Ayodele Vincent Dosunmu, is that the full meaning of the subject and the importance of the levy were not yet known to the association and the manufacturers.
'They should note what the bill is meant for, whether it's for the test, levy or tax, 'he added.
Dosunmu said the body had protested in a letter written to the ministry to inform it of the series of complaints and negative reports from companies as regards their harassment by the agent-company's officials, and to inform them that the majority of their members had been operating far below their capacity.
He said the letter also stated that the members were ready to pay taxes, levies or fines/permits considered to legal, reasonable and that followed the due process, as they had always been doing in consonance with state ministry's edict.
'But in this case, the ministry should send a copy of the edict or enabling law that stipulates that members should pay for the afore-mentioned,'Dosumu.
He noted that law-enabled levies should not be paid into a private agent's account; rather, it should go to the government.
'The ministry should stop forth with the agent from further harassing and embarrassing law abiding corporate bodies, 'he added.