Senate begins probe of N20tr unremitted stamp duties

The Senate raised the alarm yesterday over the non-remittance of over N20 trillion revenue collected as stamp duties, mandating its Committee on Finance to investigate the anomaly.

It said the non-remittance from banks and other financial institutions was through the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS), a subsidiary of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 2013 to 2016.

It also noted that the CBN had officially directed the affected banks to collect the stamp duty on behalf of the Federal Government from 2016 to date.

The resolution of the Senate was a sequel to a motion on “The need to improve Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the Federal Government by over N5 trillion annually through non-oil revenue sources available at its disposal” sponsored by Senator Akinyelure Patrick Ayo (Ondo Central).

“I engaged the Ministry of Finance and even the CBN for some kind of interaction. I discovered that what we have been expecting as stamp duty is not so. I was having the impression that we had some N20 trillion somewhere. It will interest everybody to know that we don’t even have N1trillion,” said Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

He noted further: “What has happened is because the organisations or the people that were mandated to take the stamp duty were taking advantage of non-compliance with electronic transaction and we are not getting anything really. Private organisations have taken advantage of the flaws in the stamp duty and I want to believe that from January, when the Finance Bill will come to effect, the stamp duty collection will significantly improve. It is for our committees to monitor closely what collections are there.”

While presenting the motion, Akinyelure said proper accountability and prudent financial management of stamp duty revenue would result in an additional N5 trillion generated revenue yearly. This, he said, would impact greatly on many Nigerian youths through massive job creation.

“It will impact greatly on many families and the general public, directly and indirectly, to reduce poverty to the barest. It will stem the gale of retrenchment ravaging the various sectors of the Nigerian economy and finally enhance the meeting of deliverables on the next level agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.

Also, moves for a motion on a vote of confidence in Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly failed yesterday. But there are indications the matter would be revisited.

Although the upper legislative chamber gave no official reason for dropping the motion, it was learned that most of the 36 senators whose names were published on the Order Paper as co-sponsors expressed displeasure that they were never consulted by the arrowheads of the plan.

A prominent and very vocal senator said off the record that he was shocked to have found his name on the list. “I don’t know why those seeking emergency image laundering for the leadership have to resort to this. Like many others whose names you saw on the Order Paper, I don’t know about anything relating to a vote of confidence in anybody. We have individually expressed our concerns to those packaging the project and I am sure this is why they have agreed to stand it down,” he said.

Also faulting the motion, another lawmaker said it was put together to quell mounting criticisms against what he described as the unacceptable leadership style of the Ninth Senate. According to him, “The question you should ask is why pass a vote of confidence in the leadership at this time? Why the rush? Has the leadership done anything wrong since it was put in place in June 2019 that it requires the vote of confidence as a solidarity measure?”

Passing a vote of confidence in the Senate leadership since 1999 has always been preceded by serious internal rancour or faceoff with the presidency.

The last time the Senate passed a vote of confidence in its president was in September 2015 when the then embattled Senate President Bukola Saraki (who was facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged corrupt practices) received a morale booster as 83 colleagues gave him a stamp of approval.

David Umaru (APC, Niger East), who read the vote of confidence motion, said the Nigerian Constitution guarantees the separation of powers and condemned what he termed the “ongoing unwarranted media embarrassment of the Senate and the Senate leadership.” He also urged Nigerians not to allow themselves to be used to harassing or intimidate the leadership of the legislative chamber.

Supporting the motion, Sani Yerima (APC, Zamfara Central), said: “We shall continue to support our leaders.” He stressed that lawmakers’ right to choose their leadership should be respected. “Anybody outside this chamber who wants to control the Senate should go and sleep,” he added.

But the move for a confidence vote in Lawan is unlikely to disappear as proponents are said to have begun more intense lobbying.

Without giving reasons, Senate Deputy Whip Abdullahi Sabi Aliu, who acted as Senate Leader yesterday, simply moved a motion that the vote of confidence motion for Lawan should be stood down till another legislative day. Philip Aduda seconded.

Meanwhile, Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi has raised concerns over the high rate of unemployment in the country, warning that a “social calamity” could occur unless the situation is reversed.

He stated this at a one-day roundtable discussion on the “Need for continuous implementation of policy reforms for the diversification of the Nigerian economy through solid minerals sector.”

“We have a population made up of youths. So, we have immense wealth, both human and material. But we have not been able to get our economy working in such a way that we can be in a position to employ the talents of our youthful population for the realisation of value. It is important to realise the value in the mining sector,” Abdullahi said.

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