BY ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt –
Some concerned Nigerians working on a Port Harcourt-based major oil and gas serving company, Ciscon, have dragged the chief executive officer of the firm, Shawley James Coker, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), accusing him of sabotaging the economy of Nigeria.
The workers accused Coker of hiding foreign firms for 18 years thereby depriving the federal government of billions of naira by evading taxes and refusing to remit taxes collected from workers of the company.
The concerned workers wrote a four-page petition supported with nine attachments to the commission and followed this up with a three-page written statement which is being reviewed by the Investigation Officer (IO) of the EFCC at its zonal office in Port Harcourt.
The workers said they were ready to submit many tonnes of documents to substantiate their allegations, submitted the petition was submitted by the petitioners’ lawyer, A.M. Akatugba & Co, and it was accepted by the EFCC in Port Harcourt as far back as October 31, 2016..
The lawyer stated that Ciscon Nigeria Limited is an oil and gas servicing company with headquarters at Kilometer 14, Aba Road, Port Harcourt, near Eleme Flyover area and the petition described the managing director as Shawley James Coker, a Nigerian-born Sierra Leonean who resides more in the United States
Ciscon is said to be engaged in casing and tubular services, well completion and slick line, machine shop, fabrication and fishing tool services as well as training services for oil and gas producing and other service companies. Documents before the EFCC indicated Coker is the CEO/chairman of board and major shareholder of Ciscon with an equity holding of 95 per cent.
The EFCC invited the workers and they wrote a statement confirming the petition which was signed by the representative of the workers in which he explained what he called ‘fraudulent practices’ and a call for investigation and prosecution of the Ciscon CEO.
The aggrieved workers told the EFCC that Coker in collusion with a foreign company called O-D Rentals International, contrary to various sections of the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA), 2004 (as amended), defrauded the Nigerian Government of taxes for a period of over 18 years within which the company (OD Rentals) had taxable presence in Nigeria before it was ultimately acquired by Ciscon.
The workers reminded the EFCC of the provisions of Section 54 of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 1990, which specifically bars a foreign company from operations in Nigeria if not incorporated or exempt from so doing.
The workers said that there seemed to be intention of defrauding the Nigerian Government of the sums in Companies Income Tax (CIT) right from the onset, based on the wordings of the working agreement between Ciscon Nigeria Limited (CNL) and OD Rentals International.
The statement said: “In order to facilitate the secret operations of O-D Rentals International in Nigeria without fulfilling the conditions precedent to operations in the said section 54 of CAMA as well as evading the CIT, Coker opened two operational bank accounts with Diamond Bank Plc in the name of CNL but solely operated by staff members of O-D Rentals International who were secretly operating from CNL’ operational base.
“These staffers though employees of O-D Rentals International were placed on Ciscon’s payroll to forestall being traced. Periodically, reconciliation statements were prepared by both companies to agree financial positions. In some cases, payments for jobs especially from Mobil Petroleum Nigeria, undertaken by O-D Rentals International were paid into CNL’s Sterling Bank account. In almost all cases, O-D Rentals International was sub-contractors on most CNL’s contracts especially for tools rental, hence it invoices CNL who in turn invoices the contractees for jobs executed.”
The workers alleged that with these seeming impregnable arrangements in place, Coker in collusion with O-D Rentals International was able to help O-D Rentals International evade the CIT for over 18 years before he finally acquired the company in January 2015.
It reads, “Upon acquisition of the company under reference, Coker then changed the mandates on the accounts to become the sole signatory to them. We have attached the supporting documents herewith.
“In view of the foregoing, it is indisputable that O-D Rentals International, now owned by Ciscon, satisfied two conditions (of the law) namely existence of Fixed Base and Agency tests, and therefore liable to CITA and Withholding Tax (WHT) including but not limited to penalty and interests in Nigeria for the period of over 18 years within which it operated before it was acquired.”