Nigeria: Stamp Duty Controversy - CBN, NIBSS Explain Stance to Lawmakers

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 about N20 trillion.

At a House of Representatives hearing on Wednesday, the agencies -- all involved in the collection of the duties -- only provided details of the revenues gotten from 2016, which they said were collected when the charges on electronic transaction began.

Stamp duty is the tax placed on legal documents, usually in the transfer of assets or property.

While the CBN said the total stamp duty revenue since January 2016 stands at N35.2 billion, the NIBSS said it had recorded a total of N30 billion as the revenue since January 2017 when it was involved in the collection process.

Backstory

Leaks.ng, a collation of media houses, had reported that the agencies refused to disclose details of the stamp duty revenue whose status has been shrouded in secrecy over the years.

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 tagged at N35, 240, 916, 338.54 has not been remitted to the federation account.

Mr 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 are outstanding funds from the stamp duties yet to be remitted by commercial banks.

"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?" he asked.

"We have not remitted one single kobo to the federation account. The bank statement shows the account designated for the stamp duties was first credited on February 3, 2016."

What is being charged

Mr Kure said 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," he said, adding that there are exceptions including payments between accounts of the same customer."

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.

Oladele Agboola, NIBSS company secretary and legal adviser, said there were no stamp duties on electronic transactions before 2016.

He said: "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 commenced collation and remittance in January 2017. All previous ones were done directly to CBN."

He added that NIBSS' role is to collate process and remit all duty charges collected by the banks every week 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 N12.76 billion from January to December 2017; N12.32 billion from January to December 2018, and N4.94 from January to May 2019.

Mr Agboola could not provide records of all electronic bank transactions because "apart from our platform, the banks have a direct platform to the CBN."

He also said that from January to February 2017, banks held money they collected from their customers and did not remit at the time.

Meanwhile, Bisi Adegbuyi, NIPOST postmaster general and chief executive officer, said some banks have refused to remit the stamp duties.

"There are issues of litigations; 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 a solution to some of these," he said.

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," he said. "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 who have 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."

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 stands at about N20 trillion.

The SBH representative, who gave his name as Olu Bolu, however, insisted the stamp duties were being collected "since the time of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as CBN governor."

The committee adjourned to Friday for further hearing.

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