A civil rights group, Committee for the Protection of Peoples Mandate (CPPM), has sued the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to court over alleged suspicious contents in the tax declaration of Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
CPPM is seeking leave of a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, to apply for an order of mandamus compelling the FIRS to produce Atiku’s Personal Income Tax receipts for the years 2015 and 2016.
The group, in an originating motion ex-parte, is seeking an order of mandamus to compel FIRS to produce the receipts in pursuant to section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act, and relevant rules of the Court. The motion is dated November 29, 2018 and filed the same day.
Alternatively, CPPM is seeking an order of the court compelling the FIRS to, within seven days, produce the receipts before the court for onward transmission to the group’s secretariat.
Counsel to CPPM, Michael Ukusare, in the court process, noted that the Committee was desirous of seeking judicial intervention which requireds leave of the court to institute an action.
CPPM, had in a letter dated November 16 and addressed to the executive chairman of FIRS, Mr Babatunde Fowler, requested Atiku’s 2015 and 2016 tax receipts, and sought to ascertain whether he paid his taxes as at when due. The letter was jointly signed by CPPM’s national coordinator, Nelson Ekujumi, and Solomon Sobade, a member of the group.
However, the failure of the FIRS to accede to the Committee’s demands instituted within the seven days as provided by the Freedom of Information Act, prompted CPPM to approach the court. It also noted that its private investigation indicated that the PDP candidate might have, over the years, defaulted in the payment of his personal income taxes as at when due.
“We wonder how he intends to get Nigeria working again if he has been a tax dodger. We have instituted this court action for the purpose of enlightening Nigerians about the electoral process as well as campaigning for the accountability of public office holders and aspirants,” CPPM noted.
According to the letter addressed to Fowler, the Committee alleged that Atiku Abubakar only rushed to FIRS in April of this year to pay backlogs of his taxes.
“Information at our disposal is that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did not pay his Personal Income Tax for several years and only ran to the FIRS in April this year to pay the backlog of only his 20I5 – 2017 taxes to meet up with the requirements of INEC. Hence in filing his INEC forms, he only produced his receipt for 2017 tax which was paid in April, 2018.
“As someone who continuously says he is interested in getting Nigeria and its economy working again, it is important for Nigerians to know whether he has been paying his Personal Income Tax as at when due. Consequently, we request for his 2015 and 2016 Tax receipts to ascertain whether he paid his taxes at when due.”
The letter to FIRS reads in part, “Take notice that you are to meet our demands within seven working days of the receipt of this letter. Take further notice that if you fail, refuse and/or neglect to do so, we shall be heading to court to compel you to so do,”
The applicants, Ekujumi and Sobade, in separate affidavits supporting the motion, said they had beamed their searchlight on the presidential candidate of various political parties, including candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as a part of their campaign for the accountability of public office holders and aspirants.
“That I and the 1st Applicant have been conducting enquiries into the candidates of the various political parties to ascertain their suitability for the various offices they are seeking.
“That I and the 1st Applicant have obtained the documents evidencing payment of tax filed by the said Alhaji Atiku Abubakar with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the tax receipts for 2015 and 2016 are absent.
“That I and the 1st Applicant have made informal enquiries at the office of the Respondent about the whereabouts of the 2015 and 2016 tax receipts of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and I was informed that they were unavailable.
“That due to the foregoing information, it became obvious to us that, whilst promising to get Nigeria working again, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar may have been an active tax-evader.
“That pursuant to the foregoing, I and the 1st Applicant wrote a request, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, to the respondent requesting for the tax receipts of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for 2015 and 2016 to be sure that he has been paying his taxes as at when due.
“That the respondents have failed, neglected and ignored to respond to Exhibit B till date,” the affidavit reads in part.
Suspicion about Atiku’s tax declaration arose when the former vice president who is believed to be a billionaire declared a paltry yearly personal income of N20 million. The PDP candidate, who prides himself as a businessman and job creator declared in the document submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that he earned only N60.2 million in three years and paid N10.8 million tax between 2015 and 2017.
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