The explanation of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, yesterday, on which agency of the federal government reserves the authentic right for the administration of stamp duties in Nigeria, may have rested it on the shoulders of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) which has recently been in contention with the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) over the issue. ONYEKA AJUMOBI ONOCHIE reports
Revealing this in a statement yesterday, the minister’s Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, quoted the minister as having said that the recent Finance Act 2019 amendment to the Stamp Duties Act is explicit.
“Particularly, Section 52-56 clearly defined the responsibilities for the administration of Stamp Duties in Nigeria and jurisdiction of participating taxing authorities, as well as explained that the Federal Inland Revenue Service is the competent tax authority to administer, assess, collect, and account for stamp duty in the country,” Gwandu quoted him as having said during a virtual meeting with the states Attorneys-General, Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service and members of the Joint Task Board.
According to the AGF, “the Stamp Duties was originally captured in the Stamp Duties Act 1939 (Ordinance 41 of 1939) and amended by numerous Acts and various resolutions and contained in the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004,” recalling that the federal government had, consequently, on June 30, 2020, established an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Audit and Recovery of backlogs of stamp duties, with him as the Chairman.
He continued, “Membership of the Committee was drawn from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, Central Bank of Nigeria and Federal Inland Revenue Service.”
Addressing his audience, Malami urged the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation and the Joint Tax Board to support the proposed audit and recovery of backlog of stamp duties from 15th January, 2016 to 30th June, 2020, stressing that it was within the provisions of the constitution of the country for states to make such recoveries.
He said, ” it is paramount to note that by Paragraph 7, Item B of Part II of the Second Schedule to the Constitution and Section 4(2) of Stamp Duty Act, the State Governments are empowered to collect stamp duties in respect of transactions between individuals residing in their respective states,” citing Section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act which states inter alia, “ all duties, fines, penalties and debts due to the Government of the Federation imposed by this Act shall be recoverable in a summary manner in the name of the Attorney General of the Federation or the State.”
It would be recalled that the nation’s two prominent agencies, FIRS and NIPOST have, of recent, been embroiled in argument regarding which of them has the statutory right to administer the stamp duties. While NIPOST claimed it has, all along been administering it based on exigencies of the time, FIRS insisted that the postal agency’s account on the duties is illegal, wondering how a parastatal established with the function “to develop, promote and provide adequate and efficiently coordinated postal services at reasonable rates,” can suddenly metamorphose into stamp duties administration, in the presence of a government agency solely charged with the responsibility of “assessing, collecting and accounting for all tax types, including stamp duties.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Finance had called a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja on Tuesday to resolve the crisis. Chairman of the committee, Hon. James Faleke, was to settle the dispute between the two agencies and reach a resolution on the N58bn stamp duties revenue collected from February 2016 to April 2020. Present at the meeting were Chairman of the Board of NIPOST, Maimuna Abubakar, Postmaster General/CEO of NIPOST, Ismail Adewusi, Chairman of FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami; and other top officials of both bodies.
Hon. Faleke said the open fight by the two government agencies was embarrassing to the committee, forcing the lawmakers to intervene and address the issue, adding that the lawmakers decided to convene the dialogue to see if the agencies were doing the doing the right thing in the face of the law.
The lawmaker said after hearing from both sides, the committee would go back and look at all legal issues raised, while another meeting would be convened at a later date.
- Pix: Mr. Abubakar Malami, AGF and Minister of Justice