Nigeria: Senate Summons Zainab Ahmed, Emefiele, Others Over Cross-Border Tax Evasion

The Senate has summoned Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to brief the Senate Committees on Finance, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions on measures being sought to curb revenue loss, and curb tax evasion and money laundering activities.

Also summoned are heads of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

The heads of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU); the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM); Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) among other relevant institutions were also invited.

The decision was sequel to a motion sponsored by Gershom Bassey on "the need to review the domestic legal framework against illicit Financial Flows and to consider the creation of a Tax Amnesty for the voluntary repatriation of funds to Nigeria."

In his presentation, Mr Bassey noted that Nigeria lost a minimum of $140 billion to illicit financial flows between 2000 and 2014, mainly to crude oil and commercial activities mis-pricing.

This economic loss, he said, was not abated, as Nigeria was ranked among the global top 30 countries of illicit financial outflows by dollar value, with $8.3 billion in illicit outflow from Nigeria in 2015.

Findings by the Tax Justice Network and International Monetary Fund reveals that developing countries, including Nigeria, have lost over $200 billion per year to illicit financial flows as multinational corporations neglect and refuse to pay taxes in these countries where they generate substantial amounts of profit, he explained.

"Nigeria loses approximately $15 billion annually to offshore tax evasion. This has resulted in a consistently low tax revenue as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as low as 5.7 percent in 2017. Such statistics are alarming, especially when compared to the 17.2 percent average of 26 African countries in the same year.

"This incessant financial drain on the Nigerian economy continues to have negative implications for domestic resource mobilization and long-term economic growth and development," Mr Bassey said.

The lawmaker lamented that though Nigeria has at least 12 institutions and agencies responsible for tackling illicit financial flows (IFFs), the country "continues to be menaced by weak regulatory structures and the complicity of other financial secrecy jurisdictions, among others."

While mandating the relevant committees to investigate illicit financial flows, the Senate called for an appraisal of the Federal Inland Revenue Service's current framework for tracing, identifying, preventing and sanctioning cross-border tax evasion and other illicit financial outflows.

The Senate also mandated the committee to come up with a holistic legislative framework on how to repatriate lost revenue due to illicit financial flows, mitigate such future unabated flows and provide an efficient strategy for the reinvestment of repatriated resources into the Nigerian economy.

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