In this three-month investigation, this reporter used a pseudonym name, Rose John, poses as a Diploma Student in Ken Polytechnic and paid a total sum of N195,000 to get a tax clearance certificate from two separate staff of Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue offices in Port Harcourt. However, out of the N195,000 paid, only N30,300 went into the coffers of the Rivers State Government. TCC office at the headquarters also collaborates with branch tax officers to cheat the Rivers Government. The reporter had disguised herself to look like the ignorant Nigerian which the tax officers took advantage of.
The Rivers State Government has several times warned tax officers to stop collecting cash from taxpayers. Rather, they should direct any payment to the Government designated bank, but the tax officers are illegally charging residents and then failing to remit to the government. This, they do in connivance with some bank officials.
Between August and September 2020, the Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike borrowed over N24billion to accelerate development which included construction of flyover, dualisation of road and compensation to families of demolished buildings among others. Nyesom said the fund will be repaid from the Internally Generated Revenue. What this means is that, with the constant IGR being diverted into an individual account, the Governor might not pay the loan on time. And this will affect development in the state.
Inside the Rivers State Secretariat, close to the Podium Block, there is a branch office of the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue office. Immediately the reporter got close to the entrance of the tax office, she was accosted by a dark female security lady, in blue and black trousers.
The security officer requested to know the office the reporter was heading to, and when the reporter told her she wanted to get a Tax Clearance Certificate, she was directed to a then pregnant lady called IB, chocolate in complexion.
The Discussion with IB
The reporter told IB that she wants to get a tax clearance for herself and her sister who is also a student, and it is part of a requirement to apply for a scholarship abroad. IB told her each TCC will cost N150,000 each, even when the reporter pleads that they want to use it to apply for a scholarship and they are yet to know their fate whether they will be chosen or not.
The reporter had earlier visited the state revenue branch at Aggrey Road, a fair in complexion officer told her Tax Clearance Certificate for students is free, and all she needed is to submit the school admission letter and payment of school fees receipt.
But, this is different from what the tax officer(IB) inside the state secretariat told the reporter.
“I will bring the price down to N100,000 each since it’s for both”, IB said. The reporter pleaded for the money to be reduced yet it wasn’t. IB told the reporter that the amount mentioned, she will still go and discuss with her boss and plead with him to accept the amount.
After much argument, the reporter requested IB to give her the state government’s bank account number to make payment. IB bluntly told the reporter that she can’t pay to the bank because they don’t know her, rather she(IB) is the one the reporter needs to pay to the bank. This is contrary to what the Rivers State Government jingles says. The state government has severally said it has no agent representing the government in collection of taxes. The government has warned tax officers not to collect cash rather they should direct the payer to the bank.
IB wanted cash but the reporter intentionally requested her bank account details.Happily, IB, gave the reporter her personal Guaranty Trust bank account details; Diri Ibieri Tonye. IB for short, came from Ibieri, our report understands. The reporter made a transaction of N80,000 on September 17,2020, and to also document cash received, this reporter called IB and informed her that she couldn’t make the transfer again if she could bring cash immediately. Same day, the balance of N20,000.00 was given to Ibieri. This was also captured on camera.
Every taxpayer is expected to use their Rivers Tax Identification Number to pay their taxes. The reporter was hoping IB would request for RIVTIN but she didn’t. Neither did she ask for a document to prove that the reporter’s sister was a student.
Although the reporter went with a computerised and edited scanned document as an Admission letter and an edited passport picked from the internet, IB failed to confirm if really the reporter is fake with intention to cheat the government. This act has been perpetrated by several scammers who cheat the government and most times in connivance with the staff of the Rivers Internal Revenue Board
Surprisingly, two days after, IB called this reporter to come pick her tax-clearance certificate that it was ready. Ibieri persuaded the reporter to come to do the second TCC since the previous was ready. The reporter had told IB that once the TCC was ready, she would come to the second TCC for herself.
The reporter visited IB and she gave the reporter the Tax Clearance Certificate of 3years, starting from 2017, a hundred thousand Naira (N100,000) receipts from Internal Revenue Revenue, and also an stamped Access bank teller to prove to the reporter that she paid the money to the government designated bank as said earlier.
Tracking the Stamped Access Bank Teller
The location of the bank teller states Bank Road. Bank road is close to the state secretariat opposite the Rivers State Judiciary complex.
The reporter went into the bank to find out the authenticity of the bank teller. The first customer care she met was close to the entrance of the bank, a fair complexioned lady told the reporter, the bank teller is authentic.
“Can’t you see our stamp on it? said the Access bank customer care personnel, without confirming the authenticity of the receipt from the computer.
But the reporter insisted that she check the system before assuming the bank teller is authentic. The bank official reluctantly told the reporter to move to the extreme of the counter to meet the cashier for confirmation. And this reporter did.
“Where did you pay this money? The receipt can’t be found, said the bank cashier whom the reporter had handed over the bank teller given by the revenue officer, Ibieri. The reporter told her the revenue officer gave her the teller that the money was paid in this branch.
The reporter insisted the bank cashier should check using the name on the teller, the number and the stamp yet the bank cashier insisted that all had been done yet she could not see any of the names used in payment and the teller number was not recorded.
Meanwhile, Diri Ibieri Tonye used Rose John as given by the reporter to pay the money. What this means is that the N100,000 the reporter paid for Tax Clearance was not paid to the government’s bank account; rather, it was paid to the Tax officer of Rivers State Internal revenue board.
The bank teller and computer printout given to the reporter by IB were also fake, and this can be possible with the help of a bank official.
On a separate day, the reporter visited the Rumuogba board of Internal Revenue close to Mini-okoro police station. Immediately she entered the reception by the right is an office occupied by two tax officers, a man and a fair woman.
The reporter moved to the first person, a dark man and told him she wanted to get a tax clearance and he pointed to the other lady, fair in complexion, who identified herself as Legbosi.
Legbosi was attending to a customer, immediately the reporter met her and told her she wanted TCC for herself and her sister, and they are students. This reporter made her aware of the urgency of the TCC to enable her to apply for a scholarship abroad. Immediately, Legbosi brought out a pen, wrote down her telephone contact and told the reporter to go home and call her at 4pm. Earlier, Legbosi had told the reporter to get the school admission letter, ID card and receipt. The reporter, knowing she can’t easily get the school ID card, she quickly told Legbosi that she is yet to be given an ID card from the school since 2018.
This reporter was disguised and looked unkempt when she visited Legbosi’s office and pretended to be among the ignorant Nigerians. So, Legbosi, a senior tax officer, decided to take advantage of her looks to cheat her.
In the evening, this reporter called Legbosi who told her to pay N150,000 after much pleading, the reporter stood her ground on N95,000 and the tax officer, Legbosi agreed. It took over two months before Legbosi agreed for N95,000. This was when the reporter suddenly visited the tax office and told her what they agreed on the phone was N95,000. Legbosi could not remember how much she had told the reporter.
On September 22, 2020, the reporter visited the tax office, hoping that the state government account would be given to make payment. Legbosi requested cash. The reporter told her to give the state account to make payment but Legbosi said the money was to be paid to her while she would pay to the bank. Just like her colleague Ibiere at the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue office inside the state secretariat.
The reporter requested her bank account and she refused and told the reporter to go across the office and do a withdrawal. Outside the office is the police microfinance bank. The reporter went outside and withdrew the N90,000 and intentionally left N5,000 to be transferred into Legbosi bank to have proof.
Immediately, the reporter brought out the cash to give Legbosi, she brought out an envelope and requested the cash to be put inside. Our reporter put the cash inside and handed over the money to Legbosi, and told her the ATM failed to transfer the remaining N5,000 if she can share her account details for the balance to be paid. And she did it on a sheet and this reporter transferred the N5,000 balance.
The Rivers Board of Internal Revenue has also announced that acquiring a Tax Identification number is free, and it is also stated on her facebook page. Legbos asked the reporter to pay two Thousand to get RIVTIN before payment of the Tax payment to get a TCC.
Unfortunately for Legbosi, the reporter had visited the Head office of the State revenue Board as regards TIN and it was done free. The reporter told Legbosi that her sister has a TIN. Legbosi shockingly looked at the reporter but she still couldn’t understand the naive lady in front of her. The reporter gave her the TIN
Unfortunately, the reporter didn’t notice the money was short of N10,000 and Legbosi called the reporter and informed her. The reporter checked the bag where she brought out the money and saw the extra N10,000. The reporter again requested the tax officer to text her bank details to transfer extra N10,000.
Legbosi sent a text of her Savings First bank account details; Legbosi Ikpabie. This reporter paid and she confirmed seeing the money via text message.
Unlike IB who did not ask for a document to prove that the reporter’s relative was a student; Legbosi asked. And the reporter gave her a fake Admission letter, school fees receipt all picked from the internet and edited, and a fake home address.
Getting TCC at Rumuogba
On October 5, 2020, Legbosi texted the reporter that the TCC is ready. Days after, the reporter visited Legbosi at the tax office and collected the TCC. Only N30,300 was reflected on the receipt given.
Earlier, Legbosi called and told the reporter that out of the N95,000 paid, N50,000 had no receipt, claiming the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue office does not give receipt for penalty. She claimed the N50,000 was for penalty for failure to pay tax. Meanwhile, Legbosi never told the reporter that N50,000 would be used for the penalty. She lied again. All monies paid for any purpose in the state had a receipt especially when it was said to be paid into the bank.
The bank teller brought by Legbosi only reflected N30,300 not the N95,000 as claimed earlier.
The reporter through her TIN checked the amount paid by Legbosi online, only N30,300 was reflected, and the N50,000 penalty was never stated
RIVERS STATE BOARD OF INTERNAL REVENUE, RSB
RSBIR on her facebook page said it is committed to being the credible Tax Administrator and helping the good people of Rivers State understand and become responsible TAX PAYERS.
The State Government has made several efforts to ensure residents and businesses owners pay their taxes into the right bank. However, this is done through jingles in various media outlets but there are some ignorant people who would still go to the board office and seek direction to confirm the amount needed to be paid. Rather than the Revenue officers to give direction on the right payment, some officers like Legbosi and IB will still deceive and illegally charge residents yet fail to remit to the government.
The official website of the RIvers State Board rolled out banks where taxpayers can make payment. The reporter visited the headquarters of the State Revenue board at Trans-Amai to speak with the Executive Chairman, Adoage Norteh to inform her findings. The secretary to the Chairman, an advanced woman denied the report access.
When the reporter visited State Revenue headquarters on Friday 27, October, 2020, about 1pm, some security officers told the reporter that the Chairman was in his office. The reporter introduced herself and told the secretary that she has information for the chairman. And the secretary asked the reporter if she was on appointment, the reporter said, No, and the Chairman’s secretary replied, “Then, you can’t see him”. The reporter told her she had important information to inform the chairman, the secretary said the chairman was not around.
How Headquarters collaborates with branches to defraud citizens and the Government
The reporter also put a call across to the numbers displayed on the facebook page of RSBIR identified as Joseph Iyeuma, a lady picked. This reporter asked the lady if students are to pay for TCC, and she said No with the submission of a school document. This confirms that Legbosi and Ibiere cheated taxpayers and converted taxpayers’ monies to individual pockets.
Again, the reporter requested the method to dictate the authentic TCC document, and the Tax officer told the reporter to visit the TCC office at the Board headquarters, and this reporter revisited on Monday November 4, 2020.
Immediately the reporter entered the reception, she asked one of the tax officers seated, the way to the TCC office, and the fair in complexion lady asked the reporter the reason for the visit. When the reporter told the officer she wanted to inquire about the authenticity of the TCC received, she was directed to the first floor.
This reporter also climbed the first floor, and the security lady on the first floor showed her the TCC office and she entered and walked straight to a young man seated close to the wall by the right, immediately you entered the TCC office. She told the tax officer that she wanted to confirm the authenticity of TCC she had gotten from other branches. “Meet my boss”, the tax officer said, pointing to a man at the extreme of the office.
And, the reporter walked to the man who later identified himself as Leyiri. The reporter told Mr. Leyiri she wanted to confirm the authenticity of the TCC, he requested for the copy, and the reporter gave him the TCC she had collected from Ibiere Tonye at the revenue office at State Secretariat. He started typing a code from the TCC into his computer, afterwhich, he told the reporter to officially write to the Chairman that he is not in the position to confirm the authenticity.
Having seen several TCC on Leyiri’s desk, this reporter asked him if all the TCC comes from his office. He said all TCC comes from his office after heads of the branches have done and confirmed all the process but “that is after the Chairman has approved”, he said.
He told the reporter that the TCC is original. “Are you scared, it is okay? Dont waste time going through the process of writing to the chairman”, Leyiri said, discouraging the reporter with a smiling face. He lied. The TCC from IB is fake as it has no TIN on it. The documents including the bank receipts from Ibiere are fake. The reporter also confirmed from the bank that the teller is fake. Leyiri is also covering up the crime from tax officers cheating the government.
However, if the TCC from Ibiere Tonye is authentic as claimed by Leyiri, that means tax officers at the Head of the Revenue Board collaborate with officers at various branches to defraud ignorant Nigerians and divert public funds into personal accounts against the government’s directive thereby causing the government to lose billions.
This reporter also did not identify herself as a journalist when she revisited the Headquarters of the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue office to avoid harassment.
This report is supported by HEDA Resource Agenda in collaboration with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.