The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on Tuesday expressed regrets that its disagreement with the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) over who controls stamp duty collection was allowed to degenerate into a public spat between the two agencies.
The FIRS Chairman, Muhammad Nami, who spoke while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Finance in Abuja described the development as “unnecessary and unhelpful.”
On his part, the Postmaster General/Chief Executive Officer of NIPOST, Ismail Adewusi, described the feud between FIRS and his agency as needless, as it could handled more equitably.
Mr Adewusi said despite the amendment in the Finance Act, 2019, the responsibility of procuring stamp still rests on NIPOST as part of its mandate stated cleverly in the law.
“The FIRS regrets that as agencies of the government, FIRS and NIPOST allowed a simple situation to degenerate to media exposure,” Mr Nami said.
“It is regrettable that the differences in who controls stamp duty collection between both NIPOST and FIRS had degenerated to a public spat between the two agencies. This is unnecessary and unhelpful,” he added.
Said Mr Adewusi: “The issue is, the Finance Act, 2019 did not in any way stop NIPOST from its mandate.
“In spite of amendment to the Finance Act, it has not affected the responsibility of NIPOST. There is no fight between NIPOST and FIRS over tax collection.
“The responsibility of procuring stamp rests with NIPOST, which is entitled to its share of the stamp duty proceeds it collected and domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 2016 to 2020.
“All the monies that accrued to the account include proceeds of stamp sales. In the spirit of peace, we want FIRS to look at the issue more equitably.
“We deserve in sharing the cost of collection. At the initial meeting, FIRS said they will give us 30 per cent and take 70 per cent, we said no.”
The session presided by the Chairman of the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, James Faleke, was held to attempt to broker a truce between the two agencies over the stamp duty matter.
The chairman of the committee said the purpose of the meeting was to attempt to resolve the face-off between the FIRS and the NIPOST over stamp duty collection, and the fate of the N58 billion revenue generated from February 2016 to April 2020.
Apart from other members of the committee, the chairman of the Board of NIPOST, Maimuna Abubakar, and other top officials of the postal agency and FIRS officials were also present.
Mr Adewusi said it was important to clarify that NIPOST was not an agency whose primary business or mandate was tax collection, except for stamp duty.
FIRS’ long history with stamp duty
In his submission, the FIRS Chairman said on assumption of office in December 2019, the FIRS discovered over N30 billion had accumulated in the NIPOST Stamp duty Account with the CBN.
He said the account opened in 2016 was specifically to warehouse revenue from stamp duty collection.
On a weekly basis, Mr Nami said the FIRS has been generating N3billion revenue from stamp duty collection from banks from May 2020 to date.
However, by April 2020, he said the balance in the account had grown to N58 billion because of the deployment of the API by the FIRS.
He said by May 2020, money in the stamp duty account was transferred to the Federation Account following instructions given to the CBN by the FIRS.
Since then, Mr Nami said both the FIRS and the NIPOST have been at daggers drawn over who controls stamp duty collection and the accruals from the collection.
Mr Nami traced the origin of thd payment of stamp duties collection in Nigeria to 94 years ago as part of the revenue collection schedule of the tax authority.
The FIRS chief said the FIRS was able to generate that much revenue from a single stream of stamp duty collection from DMBs due to deployment of a new technology to track and capture such revenue straight into the federation account.
The technology deployed by the FIRS, Mr Nami said, is called Application Programming Interface (API) technology solution, an online real time technology that makes collection of Stamp Duties easier.
In his opening remarks, Chairman, Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, Abiodun Faleke, said the committee was embarrassed by the open engagement of the two government agencies in addressing the issue.
As a committee responsible for overseeing finance agencies, Mr Adeleke said the lawmakers decided to convene dialogue to see if the agencies were doing the bidding of the law.
He said having heard presentations by both sides, it would not be proper for the committee to just take a decision, adding that they would need to go back and look at all legal issues raised and reconvene on a later date.