Se­nate probes al­leged non-re­mit­tance of N7tr stamp duty rev­enue

• Okays Buhari’s $5.5b loan re­quest • Asks Ndume to re­sume work

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - From Az­i­mazi Mo­moh Ji­moh and Ge­orge Opara, Abuja

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.

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