The face off between authorities of Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Council, Edo State and the management of Guinness Nigeria Plc, is getting messier, with the council accusing the latter of depriving it of collection of haulage fees for trucks used by the company to convey its products for the past five years.
It will be recalled that the Council officials had on 23 June, barricaded the entrances to the Benin plant of the company located at Oregbeni Industrial Estate, Ikpoba Hill, accusing it of preventing the Council access to the motor park fees.
Chairman of the Council, Mrs. Itohan Osahon-Ogbeide, who alleged that Guinness had denied the Council its right to collect the fees for so long, stated that the Council could no longer tolerate the company’s continued silence on the issue, in the face of dwindling allocations to the state, just as she. Added that the Council’s action was aimed at drawing public attention to the matter,
“For over five years, they (Guinness) have been obstructing us, intimidating us, refusing to see us. Sometimes, they even give us date and they do not meet it; two days to the time, they will write to us again that the manager has traveled.
“Now that the revenue from the Federal Government is not forthcoming, we want to look inward,” the Council boss said.
It was reliably gathered that a meeting between the Plant Manager at the brewery, Mr. Kingsley Imade, and the Council Chairman, reportedly failed to resolve the issue.
However, the embattled company in a press statement dated 24 July, issued and signed by its Corporate Public Relations Director, Mr. Sesan Sobowale, dismissed the Council’s claim, pointing out that collection of fees from the haulage operators had nothing to do with the company, as it was not a haulage revenue collection “agent.”
He described the blockade as unlawful and an infringement on the company’s right to operate its legitimate business and a violation of a subsisting court order on the Council and called on it to deal “directly” with the haulage service providers.
“We are taken aback by this unlawful disruption of our activities ostensibly to blackmail the company to assume the role of an agent for revenue collection from the logistics services providers. The blockade is also in violation of a subsisting court order restraining the local government from mounting blockades at our premises and demanding levies allegedly payable by these companies from Guinness Nigeria.
“The Comrade Governor was emphatic about the local government having no business blocking our business premises in a bid to collect third party levies. As a law abiding corporate citizen, Guinness Nigeria Plc hereby appeals to the leadership of the local government to act in compliance with applicable laws,” the statement said.
But the Council Chairman in a swift reaction, said the Court order only restricted the Council from gaining access into the premises of the company.
“The purported court order which was obtained 15 years ago only restricted the Council staff from entering the business premises of Guinness Plc to collect motor park fee which the Council has obeyed by establishing lorries and trailer park about 1,000 feet from Guinness premises,” she said.