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Tax evaders have two months left to pay through VAIDS or risk severe punishment – FG

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The Federal Government launched the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) on June 29, 2017 to address the problem of low tax compliance in the country and to generate the much-needed revenue for public expenditure.

The launch was greeted with mixed feelings, with some people questioning the rationale behind granting amnesty to tax evaders, while others considered the initial nine-month deadline for compliance too long. The scheme outlined government’s plan to grant tax payers a time-limited opportunity to regularise their status without penalty.

The plan, being executed in collaboration with state governments, concentrates on the national duty of all Nigerian companies and citizens to pay their taxes, wherever their income is earned, wherever they reside and no matter how rich they are.

It was predicated on a low six per cent tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, considered one of the lowest globally.  It has been designed to raise the ratio to about 15 per cent by 2020, just two years from now. Another basis for the scheme is that tax evasion leaves an unfair burden of payment on those who can afford it least – Nigeria’s poorest people.

Taxation is generally considered a fair means of wealth redistribution as high net worth individuals pay higher than low-income earners. VAIDS provides a one-off opportunity for evaders to avoid the wrath of the law. Between July 1 and December 31, 2017, evaders were encouraged to regularise their tax status in exchange for immunity from prosecution, tax audit and be absolved from penalty charges and interest.

Evaders who delayed participation beyond December 31, 2017 were projected to pay interest on overdue tax balances. Those willing to participate could enter into an arrangement to pay in instalments of several tranches. The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, explaining the scheme, noted that the behaviour of some of the nation’s richest citizens and multinationals operating in Nigeria, who seemed to consider paying tax to be optional, could no longer be tolerated.

No hiding place

The Federal Government has, meanwhile, signed data exchange agreements with several countries including the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Switzerland, Mauritius, Panama and Bahamas.

These are some of the countries that some wealthy Nigerians are said to have both cash and houses hidden. Under the agreements, there is an exchange of banking information on cash and assets such as landed properties owned by Nigerians in those countries. This strategy has created a “no hiding place” challenge for tax evaders residing in Nigeria or abroad.

The Federal Government has also put in place a data mining mechanism to fish them out. It is expected that at least US$1 billion (about N360 billion) could be raised from the scheme which will reduce Nigeria’s borrowing needs, allow investment in vital infrastructure and spur development.

Speaking at its launch, the Minister of Finance, had said, “During the last eight years, Nigeria has failed to reduce its debt levels despite high oil prices and nominal GDP growth. We have inherited a situation where our debt and underdevelopment is getting worse, not better.

This cannot continue. “Neither can the behaviour of some of our richest citizens and multinationals operating in Nigeria – who seem to consider paying tax to be optional. From 2018, international law will make it easier than ever to track these evaders down and punish them. “

This scheme is in line with similar initiatives launched in 2016 in India, Indonesia and South Africa. We know they work, we know it’s the right thing to do and the Treasury desperately needs the money.”

In a recent address, Mrs. Adeosun said, “The unique cooperation between the various arms of the Federal Government and foreign governments has provided an unprecedented level of data that allows the Nigerian government to profile taxpayers accurately and identify those whose lifestyle and assets are not consistent with their declared income.

“A lot of data mining is going on daily, both locally and internationally, on property ownership and other items. Data is an extremely powerful tool that is now being utilized. For instance, we have reviewed all companies that received major payments from the Federal Government in the last five years and found that even those who made money from government under-declared.

“On personal income taxes, we reviewed property and company ownership as well as registration of high value assets and foreign exchange allocations, which gives us a sense of the lifestyles of the persons.

“But again, we found major non-compliance. In some cases, people declared as little as N10 million as income but purchased expensive property overseas and in Nigeria, registered high specification vehicles and funded luxurious personal events costing multiples of the declared income”.

Looming prosecution/severe punishment

Those who ignore VAIDS risk criminal prosecution as from July 1, 2018. Severe punishment is planned for tax evaders at the end of the amnesty period as they face imprisonment of up to five years, severe extra penalties – up to 100% of the outstanding tax due – compound interest at 21% per annum as well as forfeiture of assets Mrs. Adeosun told journalists, penultimate Friday, that government officials had been working assiduously, preparing cases against tax evaders which would begin in July. (Vanguard)

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False age declaration: Documents clear HoS over wrongdoing, border agency boss faces sack

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Contrary to claims that the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, failed to act on the embattled Acting Director, Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), Mrs Victoria Olutayo Odumosu, over alleged age falsification, this newspaper has gathered that the HoS had in a letter to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on May 9, 2018 recommended Mrs Odumosu’s sack.

Documents sighted by this newspaper in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) showed that the memo to the vice president was in line with extant rules of the civil service as he is the Statutory Chairman of the Governing Board of BCDA.

Following the approval of her recommendations by the VP, the HoS wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on June 13, notifying him of the VP’s approval and requesting him to “kindly direct immediate implementation of His Excellency’s approval as appropriate.”
The BCDA is one of the parastatals of government under the supervision of the office of the SGF.

The HoS letter to the SGF was the climax of a rigorous process of investigation to establish the culpability or otherwise of Mrs Odumosu who was alleged to have falsified her age to remain in service.

“Oyo-Ita’s desire for due process in removing public officials from office, and to comply with the Federal Government directive on handing over to the most senior director in an agency appear to be the reasons Mrs Odumosu stayed up till this time,” an official who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the matter told our reporter.

Official correspondences obtained from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation show that the HoS, initially found it curious that the allegations against Mrs Odumosu first came from Engr Numoipre Wills, former Executive Secretary of BCDA at the point he was to hand over to her.

In her first official correspondent on the issue to Vice President Osinbajo, dated December 5, 2017, Oyo-Ita states: “The decision of the outgoing Executive Secretary, Border Communities Development Agency(BCDA) to make allegations of fake age declaration against the most senior Director without proof of his allegations is an issue of concern to the Service.

“It is irregular for Chief Executives of any Government Parastatal to engage in disobedience to policy directives of Government as conveyed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF) under any guise of unsubstantiated allegations.”

The memo further stated that public officers should not be deprived of the privileged to serve their nation based on unsubstantiated allegations, adding that such situations are capable of creating negative precedence in the service.

According to the December 5 memo, the HoS observed that the documents provided on the allegations, which she considered “serious,” called for “further investigations into the issues raised.”

She, however, concluded that the existing senior and the only director in the agency should be authorized to act pending the appointment of a new Executive Secretary or outcome of investigations of allegations of false age declaration.

“Where an officer overstayed his/her age in the service, the penalties are available in the service rules. But an officer should not be punished or deprived of a privilege based on allegations that have not been proved,” she pointed out to the Vice president.

With no response from the office of the Vice President to her earlier memos, the HoS prompted a follow up letter on May 9, 2018, more than four months later. But by this time Mrs Oyo-Ita appeared to have been convinced that Mrs Odumosu actually falsified her age and should be immediately asked to leave the service.

In the second letter to the VP, she re-iterated her earlier concerns for due process but revealed she had been presented with more evidence of Mrs Odumosu’s guilt. She stated in the letter that she received additional correspondence from the Senate Committee on States and Local Government Administration which oversights the BCDA, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

On receipt of the correspondences from the institutions mentioned, the HoS said, she wrote to Mrs Odumosu requesting for her response, and also requested for information and other career progress chart from the Industrial Training Fund-former employers of Mrs Odumosu.

She further stated that after a review of the submissions and the records from ITF, there were indications that “a prima facie case of age falsification” had been made against Mrs Odumosu. She therefor recommended thus:

i. Mrs Odumosu be directed to disengage from office.

ii. The SGF designate a Director with requisite seniority from the OSGF to oversee the affairs of the BCDA pending the appointment of a substantive Executive Secretary.

iii. The Overseeing Director could commence investigation/disciplinary procedure against the officer. In the event that the BCDA as presently constituted does not have the required number of Directors to constitute the Investigation Panel same can be empanelled from the OSGF being the supervising office.

iv.The SGF to fast track the appointment of a substantive Executive Secretary.

A response from the office of the VP dated June 12, and signed by Ade Ipaye, the Deputy Chief of Staff, the VP gave his approval to all the recommendations and requested the HoS to “proceed with immediate implementation.”

The HoS consequently wrote the SGF informing him about the VP’s approval and requested that “The SGF may wish to kindly direct immediate implementation of His Excellency’s approval as appropriate.”

-Culled from TheWhistler

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Breaking: DSS arrests Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe

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The Department of State Security has arrested Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, lawmaker representing Abia-South Senatorial District in the National Assembly, The Whistler has learnt.

According to reports, the senator was picked up on Friday morning at a Barbing Saloon in the Apo Area of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

It is not clear why the senator was arrested, but a source close to the Abia lawmaker said his arrest may not be unconnected to his constant criticism of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker is due to appear before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High court, Abuja, on June 26 to explain the whereabouts of leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB}, Nnamdi Kanu.

Abaribe and two others had stood as a surety as part of the bail conditions for Kanu, whose whereabouts has remained unknown.

Justice Nyako fixed the date after the court ordered the prosecution to serve the sureties with an earlier order of court demanding them to appear in court and explain the whereabouts of Kanu or show cause why they should not forfeit their bail amount.

-TheWhistler

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Oshiomhole unopposed for APC chair as Ebri withdraws

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The coast is virtually clear for former governor Adams Oshiomhole’s bid for the chairmanship of the All Progressives Congress. The last of his rivals, Chief Clement Ebri, also a former Governor of Cross River, announced his withdrawal from the race, leaving Oshiomhole now unopposed.

Ebri’s decision to withdraw from the race was made known on Thursday in his letter titled: “Withdrawal from National Championship race”, in Abuja.

Ebri's letter of withdrawal
Ebri’s letter of withdrawal

Ebri’s decision came ahead of the party’s National Convention slated for Saturday and followed two other chairmanship aspirants’ withdrawal from the race.

He stated in the letter that his decision to withdraw from the race came after due consultations with friends, family and associates in the interest of the party.

He added that the decision was also taken in his belief that “all stakeholders “must tow in the same rancour free direction as the 2019 general election approaches”.

Ebri noted that what happened in the leadership of the APC was directly responsible as to whether it could deliver on its promises to Nigerians to provide them with better lives.

He said that such was the core conviction that drove him into declaring his candidacy for the party’s National chairmanship position in the first place.

He also stated that the fundamental task of the APC was to win elections, adding that it behoved on the party to offer its elected officials a means for organising government.

This, Ebri said, became the primary link between the people and government.

He also urged his supporters to transfer their support for his aspiration to former governor of Edo, Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman of the APC.

“We should all render him every support and encouragement he needs as he and his team proceed to rebuild our party into a formidable, unified and inclusive organisation where every voice counts,” he said.

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