Suspected militants numbering over 50 on Wednesday attacked officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) at Aridolf Hotel, Yenagoa, Bayelsa state. Patience Jonathan, former first lady, is the owner of the facility.
The FIRS team was said to have gone to the hotel in respect of tax liabilities of over N10 million, but were attacked by the suspects said to be loyal to Jonathan’s wife, whom they reportedly addressed on the phone as “mummy”.
An official of the service said when the team arrived at the hotel, they 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.
“We demanded that they should phone the manager to inform him of the team’s presence and mission, but they ignored the demand,” a FIRS official said.
“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, we showed him the warrant of distraint and told him that the hotel owed three months VAT.”
The official said a man, who identified himself as Chief Anthony, arrived and threatened some of FIRS officials would be shot.
He argued that the operation was illegal and that the warrant was not properly signed.
According to the official, the man said the FIRS chairman should have signed with a seal.
“He claimed that the visit was a plot to ridicule Mrs. Jonathan, and that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, sent FIRS officials to plant cash in the premises,” the official said.
“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 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 official said the divisional police officer in charge of the area arrived the scene and made attempts to intervene, but was rebuffed.
He said it took the intervention of Asuquo Amba, the state police commissioner, before the cameraman was released, but that the attackers refused to let go of his camera.
The former first lady is yet to react to the incident.