Shop owners in the central district of the Freetown last week protested against what they considered as the unprecedented increase in fee for clearing containers at the Queen Elizabeth Quay II.
The business community closed their doors to the public while they were still awaiting outcome of a protracted meeting between the government and businessmen.
Customs duties on a forty foot container of business items was raised from Le 30 million to Le 45 million by the national revenue authority, NRA. In the aftermath, shops along Sani Abacha, Rawdon, Siaka Stevens and Wilberforce Streets were closed to the public as a way of registering their disapproval over the high custom duty levied on the clearance of containers.
Alusine Conteh, a shop owner said the high taxation has forced them to close down their businesses temporarily.
While NRA’s commissioner general, Allieu Sesay, could not talk when contacted by Concord Times yesterday, former bank governor Dr James Rogers said such exorbitant charges were enough to encourage tax evasion.
Meanwhile, businessmen said until NRA reduces the fee they would continue with their strike action.
Conteh disclosed that last Friday the got calls from their counterparts in Dubai suggesting that they must not open their shops in the absence of an immediate but reasonable government review of the said charges.
He recalled that during the rein of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) they paid Le30 million to clear a forty foot container at the quay, noting that the All People’s Congress (APC) government has now increased the fee to Le 45 million.
Conteh said last year when NRA decided to increase the cost of clearing a container, they informed officials of the Authority that the fee was too high but they did not receive any response.
Amadu Jalloh, another protestant said: “The APC has disappointed us. This is not what we wanted them to do. We were expecting the government to help reduce the customs duty. We are not going to open our shops until the customs duty is reduced.”
Jalloh said if they should pay Le 45 million to clear a container, what profit would they make from their businesses.