For a good time, the controversy over who has the mandate to collect and remit stamp duty between the Federal Inland Revenue and Nigerian Post Office raged on, with both agencies claiming right over the collection of stamp duty in Nigeria.
While that subtle hostility seems abating, a member of the House of Representatives Mr Muhammed Kazaure who claims be the secretary of acclaimed presidential committee on missing stamp duty funds is pointing accusing fingers at the Central Bank of Nigeria, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and some other persons in government of not only stealing the funds but foiling all attempts to recover the ‘missing’ money.
Before proceeding, pause and imagine a country where 133 million or 63 percent of persons living within its borders are multidimensionally poor. Imagine that those poor Nigerians currently experience over one-quarter of all possible deprivations as you read this text.
Now, turn to the 65 percent of the poor (86 million people) in the North and look to the poor 35 percent (nearly 47 million) living in Southern Nigeria and tell them that while they live neck-to-neck with abject poverty, with no hope of survival at least in the immediate future and tell them an institution or those in authority have misappropriated a whopping N89.1 trillion with 2014 and 2021.
According to the 2022 multidimensional poverty index survey that was jointly conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Nigeria is not only the poverty capital of the world; it now has a record incidence of multidimensional poverty ranging from a low of 27 percent in Ondo to a high of 91 percent in Sokoto.
The implication of that high poverty rate from across the length and breadth of Nigeria is simply that more Nigerians are now more vulnerable for mischief makers to prey on and cause insurrection.
If that is not interesting enough, look at all Nigerians – rich and poor in the eyes and tell them over N89 trillion is missing in a country with a total public debt as at September 30, 2022 rose to N44.06 trillion, according to official data. That’s an amount that can comfortably clear the nation’s total debt and build more infrastructure.
A breakdown of a recent report by the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that the total domestic stock as at September 30, 2022 was N26.92 trillion, while the total external debt stock was N17.15 trillion. The increase in the debt stock was attributed largely to new borrowings by the federal government to part-finance the deficit in the 2022 appropriation Act, as well as, new borrowings by sub-nationals.
That alone is creating public angst against the authorities. There is an overwhelming concern over Nigeria’s rising public debt. Now, put the high poverty rate and rising public debt side by side and imagine how gullible it is to manipulate the minds of many Nigerians today.
Obviously, many, especially those who play politics with everything are feasting on that, thereby making life more difficult for the masses. But those who refused to be spoon-fed by such uncanny characters know how to sieve the wheat from the chaff, which explains the mixed feelings that trailed the allegation by Kazaure who alleged theft of stamp duty proceeds running into over N89 trillion. The lawmaker from Jigawa State claims to be in possession of valid documents that prove the existence of such funds in the CBN custody.
Kazaure is telling whoever cares to listen that the apex bank has failed to remit stamp duty revenue to government coffers as tax, insisting that the bank remits only 60 percent to the government while 40 percent goes to private pockets.
According to him, the “diverted” funds which he puts at N89.1 trillion are illegal monies created for the banking sector as endowment funds by CBN governor Godwin Emefiele. With deep conviction and courage, Mr Kazaure claims that the funds were proceeds of financial transactions in the central bank’s Import and Export (I&E) window for forex trading by importers and exporters.
How true is that?
Total assets in the Nigerian banking sector rose by N11. 8bn in one year to N65. 48tn as of the end of June 2022, representing 22 percent increase over the period.
According to reports, the Nigerian banking industry progressively contributed some N168.4trillion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2017 and 2020.
According to a report by the National Development Plan (NDP), the nation’s financial sector added a total of N44.2 trillion to the Nigerian GDP from 2017 to 2022. Based on the report, the entire size of the financial services sector in 2017 was N78.10 trillion. The figure rose significantly to N122.30 trillion by 2020, adding N4.8 trillion and N17.4 in 2018 and 2019 accordingly.
The banking industry lead the market contribution with N34.6 trillion in 2017, N37.8 trillion in 2018 and N42.7 trillion in 2019, a consistent growth rate that also saw the 2020 figure pushed up N53.3 trillion due to COVID-19 induced restriction of movement which gave rise to increased adoption of digital banking. That shows that the lawmaker may just be raising false alarm.
CBN’s director in charge of corporate communications Mr Osita Nwasinobi in a response said “Our most concern is the N89trn because the total assets of all the banks in Nigeria is not up to that amount.
“We have been hearing these allegations, but they said N89trn stamp duty accumulated and the total assets for Nigerian banks is about N63trn and someone is claiming that fifty kobo accumulated to N89trn, how possible is it?”
Beyond the CBN, Mr Kazaure admitted in his own words that the central accounted for remitting the Stamp Duty revenue has not even been opened by the minister of finance, budget and national planning Mrs Zainab Ahmed. He said President Buhari had directed the minister to open a separate account for the Stamp Duty, a directive he said has not been carried out.
Those who spoke with our correspondent on the issue wondered where the 60 percent Mr Kazaure agreed had been remitted was kept. “That speaks volume of the sweeping allegations he’s making,” says Usman Isa, a public affairs analyst, adding that “a special panel should be set up to scrutinize the contradictory claims Mr Kazaure is making.”
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu would prefer nobody takes Mr Kazaure and his co-travelers for seriousness. In a statement he authored, Mr Shehu said “The claim by these so-called consultants and the disbanded committee is totally ridiculous and a complete mockery.”
He described Kazaure as an agent of ‘a cartel’ with collaborators in the Nigerian Postal Service, NIPOST and were allegedly collecting and pocketing the stamp duty money. He also fingered a consulting firm that was earlier hired by the government to help recover the collected stamp duty money but was later relieved of the job due of failure to deliver on its mandate.
For Mr Shehu, “it is now evident that the consultants and petitioners’ claims of a missing N89 trillion from stamp duty appears false and a figment of their malicious imaginations.”
The same set of consultants claimed in 2016 there was N20 trillion to be collected. It was found to be false. The entire banking sector deposit is not even up to half of N89 trillion.
The president’s spokesman said having lost a potentially “lucrative” line of “business,” the sacked characters returned to the drawing board to formulate one form of trick or another to intimidate the government but the vigilant teams of the administration kept them at bay.
Is that the issues? While Kazaure claims to be acting on the instruction of President Buhari, Shehu said the president rescinded his approval to constitute the committee, an indication that it has lost all legitimacy.
On two occasions, Mr Shehu said those who were hellbent on diverting the funds have employed different tactics to hoodwink the government. “Lately, they returned to the government through Hon. Muhammadu Gudaji Kazaure with a plan to track the so-called lost stamp duties with the erstwhile consultant as chairman and Hon. Gudaji as secretary.
“When it emerged that the petitioner and lead consultant of the committee the President had dissolved via the late Abba Kyari’s letter of March 28 had masqueraded himself and re-emerged as the chairman of the new recovery committee championed by the Hon. Gudaji, the President rescinded the approval he gave and asked that it be stopped from operating under the seal of his office.
“In addition to this committee being chaired by a petitioner, there were also other concerns relating to natural justice and fair hearing in having the Chief Justice of the Federation as a committee member and a serving member of the House of Representatives as Secretary, which are not in line with Section 5(1),(a)&(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” he stated.