Militants numbering over 50 on, Wednesday, attacked officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) during a tax enforcement operation in a hotel owned by the former first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State.
The FIRS team went to Aridolf Resort Wellness and Spa in respect of tax liabilities totaling N10,117,500, but were attacked by hoodlums suspected to be loyal to Mrs. Jonathan, whom they addressed on the phone as “mummy”.
When the team arrived the hotel, Edeh went straight to the reception desk and requested to see the most senior staff of the hotel. But the two receptionists said they were the only ones at the hotel.
Edeh demanded that they should phone the manager to inform him of the team’s presence and mission, but they ignored the demand.
The FIRS team, however, read the warrant of distraint to them.
After over 30 minutes of argument, militants believed to have lodged in the hotel came out and threatened to kill FIRS officials, claiming that the enforcement exercise was illegal.
When one of the directors of the hotel, Mr. Victor, arrived the scene, Edeh showed him the warrant of distraint.
Victor told him that the hotel owes only three months VAT and that staff of the hotel have not been paid for the same number of months.
A man, who identified himself as Chief Anthony and a lawyer, then arrived, threatening that FIRS officials would be shot. He argued that the operation was illegal and that the warrant was not properly signed. He added that the FIRS Chairman should have signed with a seal.
He claimed that the visit was a plot to ridicule Mrs. Jonathan, stressing that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, sent FIRS officials to plant cash in the premises.
Anthony ordered the militants not to allow them leave the premises “until ‘Mummy’ comes”.
He ordered them to arrest the team leader and some other officials. The armed militants forced the FIRS officials to remove the seal already placed at entrance of the hotel’s salon and gym as well as to unlock the hotel entrance.
The militants forced Edeh, a newspaper reporter and an NTA camera man that accompanied the team into a room, where they were beaten up. Their phones were also seized and images on them deleted.
They also deleted items stored in the camera.
The Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area arrived the scene and made attempts to intervene, but was rebuffed.
It took the arrival and intervention of the Bayelsa State Police Commissioner, Mr. Asuquo Amba to get the camera man released. The militants, however, refused to release his camera.