The Presidency has dismissed allegations of misappropriation of Stamp Duty funds levelled against some government agencies by a member of the House of Representatives, Gudaji Kazaure.
Kazaure alleged during a BBC interview on Friday that N89.09 trillion purportedly realised from deductions by banks has been siphoned.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu, described the claim as a figment of Kazaure’s imagination.
“Anyone familiar with our constitution will find it curious that a member of the Parliament is the secretary of an Executive Committee. It suffices to say that the entire net worth of the nation’s financial sector, the assets of the banking sector put together, is not worth N50 trillion, not to talk of the kind of money he is talking about.
“The Central Bank assures that there is absolutely no problem, whatsoever, with money from Stamp Duties. As it is, there is nothing to give credence to wild accusations made against the administration. As for Hon. Gudaji seeing the President, I’ll like to assure you that there is nobody that can stop him from seeing the number one citizen. Gudaji is a friend of the President,” the statement said.
Shehu added that it was unconstitutional for a member of the parliament to be secretary of an executive committee.
There has been an allegation of systemic diversion of huge revenue flows from stamp duties collection on the electronic transfer receipt on online bank transactions said to have run into several trillions of naira over the years.
Kazaure who claimed to be Secretary of the Presidential Committee on the Reconciliation and Recovery of All Stamp Duties, said the Presidential Committee on Reconciliation and Recovery of Stamp Duty was formed when he approached President Muhammadu Buhari with a research conducted in 2013 by the School of Banking Honours on Stamp Duties which showed that N20 trillion accruing from stamp duties were unremitted to government.
The committee’s terms of reference was to investigate all stamp duties recovered from banks, into many accounts; transferring all stamp duties into Stamp Duties Central Account.
According to a letter dated September 2nd, 2022 sighted by the Daily Trust, the Presidential Committee had among others, the Head of the School of Banking Honours Adetola Adekoya as Chairman, Kazuare as Secretary, while the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed and the Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami as members.
However, Adekoya resigned his appointment via a letter dated September 29, 2022 after only 27 days, saying that his decision is “to allow an independent investigation into all cases of unremitted stamp duty due to the federal government and all the constitutional beneficiaries from 2013 to date.”
He also raised alarm that the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) had been uncooperative in the effort to recover unremitted stamp duty revenue borne out of inter-bank electronic transactions and had refused on multiple occasions to grant access to data of relevant inter-bank transactions that passed through its central switch.
In November 2017, the Senate kick-started a probe into the allegation that stamp duties revenue which accumulated over a period of five years and is valued at over N20 trillion has not been paid into the federation account.
“The Senate is worried that the provision for stamp duty in the revenue framework of the nation’s annual budget for 2015, 2016 and 2017 has been N8.7 billion, N66 billion and 16.9 billion respectively despite the above reports; apprised of the anti-stamp duties collection stance of the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS),” Enoh said.
Kazaure on Friday alleged that critical institutions such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), and the Protocol Department of the State House prevented him from briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on findings made by his committee.
He further stated that the committee had accused the government agencies of sabotaging the committee’s efforts and that the committee discovered additional diversions of stamp duty funds to the tune of N89.09 trillion, purportedly realised from deductions by banks which has been misappropriated.
However, Shehu stated that the presidential committee the lawmaker purportedly serves as its secretary had since been dissolved and another committee chaired by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, was set up by the president to reconcile Stamp Duties accounts.
“There is a committee duly set up by the President in June 2020, chaired by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and the Secretary is the Chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) that is currently reconciling the stamp duty accounts. The job is not finished,” he said.
Dispute Over Collection of Stamp Duties
There has been no lost love between the FIRS and the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) over the collection of stamp duties in the country.
The Board Chairman of NIPOST, Maimuna Abubakar, had accused the FIRS of usurping the mandate of the country’s postal service by selling stamps, in an attempt to ‘kill and ‘bury’ NIPOST.
“FIRS did not only steal our stamps but also our ideas, what NIPOST had worked for since 2016, our documents, patent and sneaked everything into finance bill and tactically removed the name of NIPOST,” Abubakar lamented.
She reiterated that NIPOST is the only agency charged with the responsibility of producing adhesive stamps and revenue for the purchase of such stamps accrues to NIPOST.
But the FIRS argued that ‘stamp duty’ was different from ‘postage stamp’, noting that the two separate entities were being mixed up by Abubakar.
“Stamp duty is a tax payable in respect of dutiable instrument as provided under the Stamp Duties Act, CAP S8, LFN 2004 (as amended),” the FIRS clarified.
The FIRS also accused NIPOST of illegalities ranging from the illicit operation of Stamp Duty account to suspected misappropriation of funds.
FIRS’ Director of Communication and Liaison Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmad, said the Service would ensure that all monies diverted to the wrong quarters by NIPOST are remitted into the Federation Account, with proper accountability.
“The FIRS is determined to not only ensure that all monies collected by NIPOST into its illegally operated Stamp Duties Account are fully remitted into the Federation Account but also make sure that any kobo not accounted for in that account is legally recovered,” a statement signed by Ahmad read in part.