Economy Politics

Polls: Nigeria must avoid ‘Venezuelan nightmare’, says Akinyemi

Written by Maritime First

…As FIRS to sell properties of 52 firms, over N3.4bn tax debt***

A former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, has called for peace ahead of the general elections.

He said in his experience of monitoring elections, he had never been filled with the kind of fear he had about the coming polls.

Akinyemi called for caution so that Nigeria does not go through the Venezuelan experience, where the international community, led by America, decided to recognise the opposition leader in the country as alternative President because of the alleged malpractices that dodged the election.

The ex-minister urged politicians to guard their utterances.

He made the appeal in a statement on Sunday.

Akinyemi said, “Since I have been monitoring elections in Nigeria, I cannot remember any elections that filled me with so much dread and trepidation as these forthcoming elections. Not even the riotous 1965 federal elections. And we all know what that led to.

“As a scholar in international relations, I cannot but bring to the attention of Nigerians the significance of the latest development in Venezuela where the international community, under the United States, has accorded recognition to the opposition leader as the alternative president as their reaction to what they perceive as a flawed election.

 “This is promoting regime change by another route. This is the beginning not the end of the Venezuelan nightmare. Nigeria should by all means avoid a repetition of the Venezuelan nightmare in Nigeria.

“Therefore, I appeal to the political leaders to call on their supporters to eschew violence and any undemocratic behaviour during these elections. We should avoid hate speech not just now but in our political system.”

In the meantime, the Federal Inland Revenue Service is to dispose of the properties of 52 companies over tax debts valued at about N3.4bn.

Investigations by our correspondent in Abuja showed that already, the Legal Department of the Service had begun the process to sell the properties in a bid to effectively implement the initiative.

It was learnt that apart from the 52 companies, ten other companies are still under investigation for tax evasion while enforcement action is expected to be carried out on another 10 companies in Lagos with a total tax value of N727.42m.

Our correspondent gathered that based on an investigation conducted by the FIRS, some private organisations that own properties in Nigeria had not been paying any form of taxes.

Following this discovery, it was learnt that the agency took a review of all properties that were under corporate ownership.

By law, where a company has not filed or paid any taxes, the tax authority used an estimated assessment based on the company’s turnover.

In order to ascertain the level of turnover, the FIRS wrote to commercial banks asking for details of the turnover of some of the affected companies.

The first letter to commercial banks from the FIRS, findings showed, was written in May last year.

The letter requested a list of companies, partnerships and enterprises with a banking turnover of N10bn and above.

The move was aimed at ascertaining those companies that are compliant with the tax laws and those that are not compliant.

The second letter according to findings was written to all commercial banks in October 2018, and the responses from the banks are currently being reviewed by the FIRS.

It was learnt that the move was part of the special programme to drive compliance.

The special programme is targeted at recovering tax liabilities from non-compliant companies that are currently being assessed for tax under the Company Income Tax Act.

Speaking on the steps to ensure compliance, the FIRS Chairman, Mr Tunde Fowler, had on Thursday during a meeting with the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, explained that the agency would collaborate with security agencies this year to go after wealthy tax defaulters.

He had requested the Nigeria Police to assist the FIRS to bring the tax defaulters to pay their taxes.

He said, “We looked at businesses, partnerships of any activity that has banking turnover between N100m and N999m. We have done a review of this group of businesses.

“We have about seven more banks that we are still waiting for the return from and to review their information.

“So far, we have 45,361 that have TINs and are making payments. We have 40,611 that have TINs, that made tax payment and, we have 44,504 that have no TIN and no payment.

“So, when you look at it from a glance, we have close to 75,000 in this group that are still not taxpayers and we have said the payment of tax is not only for the civil servants. it’s for all Nigerians.

“So, the millionaires and the billionaires will pay tax on behalf of what is due to the national coffers.”

Fowler commended the Nigerian Police Force for its support and collaboration over the years, which he said, had helped the FIRS to achieve its target and requested for more support to enable it to recover taxes due to rich tax evaders in 2019.


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Maritime First