Senate probes alleged non-remittance of N7tr stamp duty revenue
• Okays Buhari’s $5.5b loan request • Asks Ndume to resume work
THE Senate has mandated its committees on finance and banking, insurance and other financial institutions to investigate alleged non-remittance of stamp duty revenue in the last five years. The upper chamber said it discovered that the Nigerian Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) was being accused of systemic diversion of huge revenue from stamp duty.
Application of stamp duty has been a significant revenue earner for both federal and state governments since independence, yielding almost a quarter of the money realised yearly from taxation.
The resolution to probe the alleged non-remittance of the revenue was sequel to a motion by John Owan Enoh, representing Cross River Central and 10 other senators, which was adopted by the lawmakers.
In his lead debate on the motion, Enoh, who noted that the Stamp Duty Act is one of the oldest and enduring laws in the country since 1939, alleged that over N7 trillion stamp duties revenue from electronic cashless transactions has remained unpaid to the federation account since 2015. “The total volume of unremitted stamp duty funds is about N20 trillion, hence, the probe,” Eno added. The lawmaker said the projections for stamp duty in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 revenue frameworks of the na- tion’s yearly budget were put at N8.713 billion, N66.138 billion and N16.96 billion. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reportedly declared in 2013 that stamp duty revenue from five states only was over N160 billion. And despite the nation’s rising debt profile put at N19.6 trillion as at June 30th, 2017, the Senate yesterday approved the request of President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow additional $5.5 billion made up of $2.5 billion to fund the 2017 budget and $3 billion to re-finance domestic loan.
Not all the senators were in agreement. Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (APC, Taraba) for instance, said: “We must be very careful because this is dependent on what happens in our foreign reserves. If our foreign exchange rate goes to N500/$1, we are going to have a very serious problem in generating enough foreign exchange to pay the foreign debts.”
The Shehu Sani-led Committee on Local and Foreign Debts told the Senate that its findings were that “the terms and conditions of the loan are favourable and do not pose any compromise to the integrity, independence and interest of Nigeria and its citizens.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over yesterday’s session, said that “this Senate will continue to partner with the Federal Government in matters that concern the ordinary people of Nigeria. The implementation of the 2017 budget is key because any appropriation Act that is not implemented is worthless. So, whatever needs to be done to ensure that the budget is implemented will always have the support of this senate.” He urged the Debt Management Office to ensure that the nation’s debt profile is monitored “so that we will always ensure that it is within the acceptable limit.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in asking the National Assembly to approve the two external loans last month, particularly the $2.5 billion component, invited the upper chamber to “note that in order to implement the external borrowing approved by the National Assembly in the 2017 Appropriation Act, the Fed- eral Government issued a $300 million Diaspora Bond in the International Capital Market (ICM) in June 2017.” He listed the projects as the Mambilla Hydropower project; construction of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport; counterpart funding for rail projects and the construction of the Bode-bonny Road, with a bridge across the Opobo Channel.” Also yesterday, the Senate declared that Mohammed Ali Ndume, who had been on suspension since March 2017, could resume work today.
Ekweremadu who announced that Ndume should take back his seat among his colleagues, having served out his six months suspension, said the resolution was without prejudice to his suspension.