By Godson Ikiebey-
Federal government agencies including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), and the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) Plc have denied withholding stamp duty revenues to the tune of 20 trillion naira.
At a house of representatives hearing on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, the agencies, involved in the collection of the duties provided details of the revenues from 2016 which they said was when the charges on electronic transaction began.
While the CBN said the total stamp duty revenue since January 2016 stands at 36.2 billion naira, the NIBSS said it has recorded a total of 30 billion naira as the revenue since January 2017 when it was involved in the collection process.
You will recall that Leaks.ng, a collation of media houses, had reported that the agencies refused to disclose details of the stamp duty revenue.
Following the report, the lower legislative chamber set up an ad hoc committee on “the remittance of trillions of naira stamp duties to the federation account”.
During the committee’s investigative hearing in Abuja, Abubakar Kure, CBN acting director of banking services, said the revenue which he pegged at N35,240,916,338.54 had not been remitted to the federation account.
Kure said the apex bank still has the stamp duty revenue in its custody pending the decision of the supreme court on the legality of the collection.
He, however, admitted that the apex bank could not confirm if there were outstanding funds from the stamp duties yet to be remitted by commercial banks. He said:
“What we are saying is, the matter is at the supreme court and it will go either way. So if you share the money among the tiers of government and the court says ‘return the money’, what will now be done?
“We have not remitted one single kobo to federation account. The bank statement shows the account designated for the stamp duties was first credited on February 3, 2016”.
Kure went further to say that the CBN had issued circulars to banks indicating the framework for the stamp duty collection.
“It specified N50 per eligible transaction and total deposit for such charge should be up to N1,000”.
The CBN director also explained that while the fund is domiciled with the apex bank, NIPOST is the principal agency responsible for the management in terms of accounting for inflows.
Speaking Oladele Agboola, NIBSS company secretary/legal adviser, said there were no stamp duties on electronic transactions before 2016.
According to him:
“Before 2016, no bank collected stamp duty on electronic transaction from any of their customer. This is because there was no legal basis to do so. NIBSS comenced collation and remittance in January 2017. All previous ones were done directly to CBN”.
He also said that NIBSS’ role is to collate process and remit all duty charges collected by the banks on a weekly basis and to also “remit all monies collected to NIPOST stamp duties collection account in CBN”.
He gave a breakdown of the N30,040,615,632.71 which according to him has so far been collected as N12.76bn from January to December, 2017; N12.32bn from January to December, 2018, and N4.94 from January to May, 2019.
Agboola also said he could not provide records of all electronic bank transactions because “apart from our platform, the banks have a direct platform to the CBN”.
He said that from January to February 2017, banks held money they collected from their customers and did not remit at the time.
On her part, Bisi Adegbuyi, NIPOST postmaster general and chief executive officer, said some banks have refused to remit the stamp duties. He said:
“There are issues of litigation, some banks refuse to pay because the court had ruled before that NIPOST does not have powers to collect the duties before the act was amended. We would find solution to some of these”.
Usman Shabba, NIPOST director of finance, said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) once investigated the stamp duty revenue.
“If there are trillions, only EFCC can confirm regarding the claim of SBH. We only have records of what has been remitted into that account in 2016. We don’t have records of the trillions of naira before then”.
Abubakar Ahmad, chairman of the committee, called for action against banks which failed to remit the stamp duties.
“So even with the money quoted by CBN, there are other monies elsewhere. The banks are always deducting and some of them are not remitting. So the banks have been indicted”.
However, the School of Banking Honours (SBH) which claimed to have been appointed as “sole recovery agent of government” for the stamp duties was, however, unable to confirm that the total stamp duty revenue said to be unaccounted for stood at 20 trillion naira.
The SBH representative who gave his name as Olu Bolu, however, insisted the stamp duties were being collected “since the time of Sanusi as CBN governor”.
The committee adjourned till Friday, May 17, 2019 for further hearing.