Owerri - Some of the Banks closed by the Imo Government for failure to pay withholding tax have resumed commercial operations after one month closure.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent, who visited some of the banks on Monday in Owerri reports that normal activities have kicked off in the banks as customers were seen moving in and out of the banks to either withdraw or deposit their money.
NAN reports that the Imo Board of Internal Revenue had on December 12, 2013 sealed up the premises of eight commercial banks operating in the state for alleged failure to remit N2 billion withholding tax to the state.
The Commissioner for Internal Resources and Pension Affairs, Nick Opara-Ndudu had told newsmen that the banks were shut following a court order.
He said that a court order had authorised the board to shut down the affected banks for not heeding to the repeated demands for the payment of tax to the Board.
He said that the banks were indebted to the state to the tune of N2 billion and had refused to pay after several requests from the board.
NAN reports that this action of the state government grounded commercial activities in the state for some days.
The affected banks are UBA, First Bank Plc, Zenith Bank, Fidelity Bank, Diamond Bank, Enterprise Bank, Keystone Bank and Ecobank.
An official of one of the re-opened banks who wanted anonymity explained that his bank was re-opened following a court order.
He explained that the bank pays tax to the Federal Government and had also settled the Owerri Capital Development Authority, adding, "I wonder where the Imo Government wants us to get the N650 million to pay them."
A customer of one of the banks, Emmanuel Ononugbo, a businessman, expressed happiness over the re-opening of the bank.
He called on the state government and the management of the affected banks to always have the interest of the masses at heart before taking any decision.
"Government policies should not affect the masses negatively. They should not allow the bank customers to suffer. Ordinarily banks should not engage in activities that will affect their customers,” he said.
Another customer, Chibuzo Adimadu identified with the position of Ononugbo when he urged government to ensure
it considered the interest of the masses before taking such action.
"Government should not be self-centred in their demands. A lot of customers suffered during that period.
"Some of us had to go to other states to withdraw money. It was really a difficult time,” he said.
Reverend Mathias Osuagwu, another bank customer was happy that the banks had re-opened.
He said that he depended on friends during that period when the banks were closed.
NAN reports that some banks not affected by the closure had initially joined in solidarity with their colleagues in closing their banks.
They were, however, forced to re-open when Opara-Ndudu explained that it was only one of the branches of the affected banks that were shut down by government and not all banks.
The re-opened banks include First Bank, Zenith and UBA, while an official of one of the banks yet to be re-opened enjoined their customers to exercise patience as they would soon re-open.