Over ₦20trillion unremitted stamp duties unaccounted for as Senate begins investigation

Senate investigates CBN, banks over N20trn unremitted stamp duties

The Senate, yesterday, directed its Committee on Finance to investigate the alleged non-remittance of over N20 trillion into the Federation Account by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The whopping sum of money was an amount allegedly collected as stamp duties from banks and other financial institutions in the country by the apex bank, which it allegedly failed to remit into the coffers of the federation as required by law.

The lawmakers resolved to carry out the inquest while considering a motion entitled, “the need to improve Internally Generated Revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria through non-oil revenue”, sponsored by Senator Ayo Akinyelure (PDP, Ondo Central).

Leading debate on the motion, Akinyelure told the Chamber that the CBN had, in January 2016, issued a circular directing all banks and financial institutions to charge stamp duty of N50 on lodgements into current accounts against revenue projections by the Federal Government of N2.5 trillion annually.

He stated that after the issuance of the circular by the CBN, all deposit money banks and financial institutions effected N50 per eligible transaction in accordance with the provisions of the Stamp Duty Act 2004 and Federal Government Financial Regulations 2009.

The lawmaker, however, noted that efforts by the Federal Government to recover over N20 trillion from Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBBS) to the Federation Account were frustrated by the CBN.

He said: “The CBN and NIBBS have technically refused to comply with the Presidential directives for the recovery of over N20 trillion revenue into the coffers of government.

“The CBN and NIBSS deliberately failed to cooperate and comply with the directives of Mr. President for the realisation of over N20 trillion revenue due from stamp duties collected for 2013 to 2016 and subsequently over N5 trillion minimum revenue due to be collected annually to the Federation account to be shared among States of the Federation for infrastructural and economic development.”

Akinyelure posited that since the Federal Government issued the directive for stamp duty collection, banks had not been transparent in its transactions in this regard, and that the apex bank had not been furnishing the public with reports on the matter.

“Since the implementation of the collection of stamp duties, accountability by banks has not been transparent and no report by CBN or its subsidiary (NIBSS) to the Nigerian public to know the actual revenue generated, collected and transferred to the Federation Account,” he lamented.

The lawmaker reminded his colleagues that the House of Representatives and National Economic Council (NEC) had, in May 2019, decided to intervene in the matter and recommended that all agencies should support the Federal Government’s recovery mandate on the over N20 trillion stamp duty.

According to him, the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) and Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) have adopted the combined resolutions of the House of Representatives and NEC.

He further lamented that before the Joint Task Force could move to recover the huge unremitted fund, the CBN, in August 2019, released a report that its borrowings to banks would hit N23 trillion by the end of this year.

“The Senate must consider whether the target N20 trillion fund is being recycled into private banks (with impunity) when Federal Government had directed its recovery,”Akinyelure said.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said: “I engaged the Ministry of Finance and CBN for an interaction, and I discovered that what we have been expecting to be available as stamp duty is not so.

“I was under the impression that we had over N20 trillion somewhere. It will interest you to know that we don’t even have N1 trillion.

“What has happened is because those that are supposed to collect the stamp duties were taking advantage of the non-electronic transaction.

“With the passage of the finance bill, this is an opportunity we have to start getting what ordinarily should go to the government.

“The banks and many private organisations have taken advantage of the way the stamp duties have been.

“I want to believe that from January 2020, when the Finance Bill will start being effective, the stamp duty collection will be significantly improved.

“It is for our Finance Committee to monitor closely what the collection should be.

“We have also come up with another idea of engaging all the revenue generating agencies on a quarterly basis.

“We have got already a list of all of them from the Federal Ministry of Finance. We will put them into maybe four groups, and the first meeting for evaluation of their collection will be sometime in March.

“We would like to know in the first quarter how much they have collected, and if they have not met targets; if they have met targets, how do we do better than that? The idea is not to slow down the operations of the agencies.”

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