GE Adamant to NUPENGASSAN Ultimatum on Illegal Tax Deductions
Unless General Electric International Operation Nigeria (GEION) and other concerned parties do the needful between today and next week by refunding the excess withholding Tax deduction made from Arco by GEION, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) are bent on engaging in industrial strike, a source told Leadership.
According to the source GEION has neither reconciled with Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS nor refund the excess withholding Tax deduction made from Arco Petrochemicals.
However, General Secretary of PENGASSAN, Comrade Lumumba Okungbawa, while speaking to our correspondent, said engagements are ongoing and that there would be a meeting next week by labour to evaluate the situation.
NUPENG and PENGASSAN had two weeks ago given a 14-day Ultimatum over non-payment of terminal benefits and allowances of its members who were laid off in August 2016 by ARCO Group Plc.
The two bodies in a statement signed by Comrade Okungbawa, of PENGASSAN and Comrade Afolabi Olawale, General Secretary of NUPENG, noted that there have several meeting with FIRS and even with Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige to resolve this lingering issue with General Electric remaining defiant.
The Union said that in the course of the intervention, Arco Management alleged that its inability to fulfil its obligations to the workers was as a result of the excess withholding Tax deduction made from Arco by GEION, adding that during the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, it was agreed that ARCO, FIRS and GEION should meet and reconcile the figures with regards to the excess deducted withholding Tax as alleged by ARCO.
According to the unions all agreement reached with GEION to reconcile
With FIRS and request for refund of the over-deducted sums paid to FIRS were not heeded to, indicating that GEION is definitely hiding something from Arco and the unions.
It added that both GEION and Arco Petrochemicals should go back and within two weeks, reconcile the deductions that had not been reconciled and that the concerned workers be paid within one week.
It was also agreed that all tax deductions made by GEION on behalf of ARCO be substantiated with documentary evidence, with the objective of remitting to FIRS should be refunded to Arco within three weeks.
The agreement also stated that the sum confirmed by the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service office as having been remitted by GEION, but which is under dispute should be reconciled between GEION and FIRS within two weeks to pave way for further action.
The Unions reiterated that to its dismay that GEION had blatantly refused to carry out the specific steps agreed by all at the meeting to help facilitate the process towards ARCO paying the workers their final entitlements.
The two oil unions see this as an affront and total disrespect to constituted authorities, saying they a cannot see their members wallow in deprivation and hardship after toiling for several years due to deliberate ploy of some unscrupulous individuals and organizations to elope with the fruits of their labour.
Arco had in a letter, to the unions which was also made available to the office of the Deputy Senate explained that its inability to pay the benefits and entitlements of some of its members, five of whom have died while waiting, was because of the deliberate refusal of GE to refund taxes illegally and unilaterally deducted at 10 per cent, instead of the 5 per cent permitted under the contract.
Findings show GE has ignored letters by FIRS that 5 per cent is the applicable rate.
Records indicate that the FIRS had noted discrepancies in remittances made by GE between 2009 and 2015.
Leadership was told that after a reconciliation meeting between May 17 and June 21, 2019, for example, the FIRS Chairman, Tunde Fowler, wrote a letter dated August 7, 2019 in which he noted wrongful withholding taxes deducted by GE amounting to N328, 855,903.10 between 2009 and 2015.
In the same letter, Fowler also noted that between 2011 and 2015, the dollar differential of withholding taxes wrongfully deducted by GE was $1,716,976.96.
Also a meeting on September 24 involving GE and Arco, in which officials of PENGASSAN and NUPENG and the FIRS attended it was decided and letter dated October 4, 2019 signed by a director in the Labour Ministry, Mrs. O.U. Akpan, that, “GEION should within seven days apply to the FIRS and request for the refund of the over-deducted sums paid to FIRS as agreed during the reconciliation exercise.”
Akpan also said: “All deductions made by GEION on behalf of Arco substantiated with documentary evidence with the objective of remitting to FIRS, but which were not remitted to FIRS should be refunded to Arco within three weeks.” The seven days have since expired, with GE not making any move.
According to insiders GEION does not want to pay since it has even sold the project in question. In fact the response of Thorpe, Yewande, one of the officers in the Communications Department of GEION, confirms the above.
She said the project in question was related to GE’s legacy Oil and Gas business. GE has now reduced our ownership stake and are no longer a majority owner of Baker Hughes.