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Economy

Auditor-General accuses Customs, FIRS of granting unauthorised waivers

—-says CGC Ali fails to answer 11 audits queries

Eyewitness reporter

The Auditor- General of the Federation(AuGf), Adolphus Aguhughu, has accused the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service( FIRS) of granting  unathorised waivers, amounting to billions of naira, which he said should have been part of the revenue accruable to the coffers of the Federal government.
In the 2019 Auditor General’s report with ref. AuGf/AR.2019/01 dated 18th August 2021 signed by Adolphus Aguhughu, AuGf, and submitted to the Clark to the National Assembly, the Auditor-General said the waivers were granted by FIRS and the Customs Service to some selected tax payers and importers as well as under remitting revenue collected to the government during the 2019 financial year.
According to the report, the Auditor-General said he observed that  “from the review of waivers granted and other relevant records, that the sum of N17,223,453.56 only being part of import duty due to the Federation Account during the 2019 financial year was granted as waivers to fourteen (14) Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 50% rebate” by the Nigeria Customs Service.
Adolphus Aguhughu furher noted that the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col(rtd) Hammed Ali refused to answer 11 audit queries posed to him by the office of the Auditor-General.
On the other hand,the reports said that records from the Federations Account Allocation Committee revealed that some companies were granted tax waiver and penalties by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in contravention of existing government circulars.

It said that despite directives, the FIRS was only able to recover the sum of N47.517bilion, while being unable to recover the balance of N23.703 billion which has been outstanding as of 23rd January 2019.
The report said the Executive Chairman of the FIRS failed to give reasons why the sum of N23.703 billion was still outstanding, adding that he should be asked to provide the list of companies that failed to pay the amount due against them.
The report said that the management of the Federal Inland Revenue Service only responded to two of the six audit queries issued to them by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation while failing to respond to the remaining four queries.

The report further said that “the anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Federal Inland Revenue Service” as it could lead to loss of revenue to the Federation Account as well as difficulty in funding the annual budget.

”The OAuGF wants the outstanding amount recovered and remitted to the Federation Account, while evidence of the remittance should be forwarded to the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly or appropriate sanctions be imposed on the Service.

According to the report, a review of Inflows into the Federation Account revealed that taxes paid through Paydirect owned by Interswitch showed details of taxpayers such as Tax Identification Number (TIN) and amount, while taxes paid through Remitta, E-tax pay, and eTranzact which were transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directly did not reflect fully, details of the Tax Payers on the FIRS Webportal.

It said that the Executive Chairman of FIRS should be requested to provide reasons for the inability of the CBN to disclose details such as TIN, Name and Amount of tax payers remitted directly to the pool account.

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Economy

N2.4 billion judgment debt: Supreme Court reverses itself, restores GTB’s appeal against Innoson Motors

The Supreme Court has set aside its earlier ruling which dismissed Guaranty Trust Bank’s (GTB) appeal against a N2.4 billion judgment in favour of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited.

The apex court set aside its own decision on Friday while delivering judgment in an application by GTB seeking the re-listing of the appeal on the grounds that it was wrongly dismissed.

The apex court in reversing itself relied on Order 8 Rules 16 of the Supreme Court’s Rules that empowers it to set aside its decision in certain circumstances, like any other court.

Specifically, the five-member panel, led by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, in a unanimous decision, held that the apex court erred in its ruling of February 27, 2019, wherein it erroneously dismissed GTB’s appeal with number: SC/694/2014 against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The apex court, in the lead judgment written by Justice Tijani Abubakar, but read by Justice Abdu Aboki, claimed that it was misled by its Registry, which failed to promptly bring to the notice of the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, that GTB had already filed its appellant’s brief of argument.

The apex court noted that had the panel that sat on the case on February 27, 2019, been notified of the existence of the appellant’s brief of argument, it would not have given the ruling which dismissed GTB’s appeal on grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.

The apex court justices explained that the court has powers to reverse itself where there is any reason to do so, especially where any of the parties had obtained judgment by fraud, default, or deceit; where such a decision is a nullity or where it is obvious that the court was misled into giving a decision.

According to the judgment, the circumstances of the GTB case fall into the category of the rare cases where the Supreme Court could amend or alter its own order on the grounds that the said order or judgment did not present what it intended to record.

“I am convinced that at the material time that the appellant’s appeal was inadvertently dismissed by this court, there was in place, a valid and subsisting brief of argument filed by the applicant.

“It will be unjust to visit the sin of the court’s Registry on an innocent, vigilant, proactive, and diligent litigant.

“It is obvious from the material before us, that there were errors committed by the Registry of this court, having failed to bring to the notice of the panel of Justices that sat in chambers on February 27, 2019, that the appellant had indeed filed its brief of argument.

“This is a case deserving of positive consideration by this court.

“Having gone through all the materials in this application, therefore, I am satisfied that the appellant/applicant’s brief of argument was filed before the order of this court made on February 27, 2019, dismissing the applicant’s appeal.

“The order dismissing the appeal was therefore made in error. It ought not to have been made if all materials were disclosed. The application is, therefore, meritorious and hereby succeeds,” the apex court held.

He proceeded to set aside the court’s ruling of February 27, 2019, dismissing GTB’s appeal and ordered that the appeal marked: 694/2014 “be relisted to constitute an integral part of the business of this court until its hearing and determination on the merit”.

Other members of the panel are John Okoro and Helen Ogunwumiju.

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Economy

AuGF Indicts NPA, Customs, 14 other MDAs over unremitted funds to consolidated accounts.

Eyewitness reporter

The Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation has indicted the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service and 14 other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) over their failure to remit accrued revenue into the Federation accounts.

According to his 2019 audited report titled ‘OAuGF Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weakness Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) submitted to the National Assembly, the AuGf,   Mr Adolphus Aghughu , declared that the NPA, Nigeria Customs and other 24 Government agencies and parastatals committed these financial infractions in their 2019 financial transactions.
The NPA, in the report, was indicted over its failure to recover and remit N40.126 billion, $921.636 and £289,931.82 to the government’s treasury from various revenue sources in the 2019 financial fiscal year.
These were contained in 13 audit queries for the NPA signed by the Auditor-General and submitted to the National Assembly for further legislative action.

The report disclosed that an agreement signed between NPA and various terminal operators stated that, “a fixed annual payment of a sum as specified in the schedule be paid in 12 equal installments in each operating year.

 “The first installment to be paid on the first day of the month after the effective date and then, on the same date of every month thereafter.”
The report also stated that the terminal operators failed to comply with the lease agreements in terms of their obligations relating to the payment of fixed fees over the period, thereby holding back $852,093,730.77 and N1,878,560,509.57 that should have been remitted to the NPA for the period.

It stated further that estate tenants, shipping companies and service boats operating from the ports were hugely indebted to the NPA to the tune of $67.425 million and N32.266 billion outstanding as rent, shipping due and service boats.

The audit report further noted that sizeable percentages of the debts were non-performing or dormant due to a long period of non-settlement, leading to loss of revenue to the government and possible diversion of government revenue to unauthorised users.

The Audit report also queried the irregular payment for rehabilitation of Port Harcourt port road network and water distribution system to the tune of N1.847 billion, irregular payment for the restoration of power supply to Tin Can Island Port.

It frowned at the irregularity in the award of contract for the construction of delivery and commissioning of MDPE channel marking buoys in foreign currency, irregular payment for the supply for fire alarms communication and office equipment for Lagos port complex and irregular payment for the supply of fire alarms communication and office equipment for Ikorodu lighter terminal.

On Customs, the AuGF slammed the service for its failure to remit N125 billion into the Federation accounts.

But the NCS is not the only defaulting government establishment. There are about 14 others found culpable of similar allegations.

They are Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority (RBDA), Owerri; the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR); Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN): Kwali Area Council; Lagos State University (LASU); National Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu; three Federal Medical Centres (FMC) and Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital.

Others are Council for Legal Studies and the National Industrial Court.

While the NCS allegedly failed to pay N125 billion Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) into the government coffers, the remaining 14 government establishments defaulted with N1.28 billion (N1,284,427,345.04).

The OAuGF also identified 12 MDAs, including the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which failed to remit value-added tax (VAT), the With-holding Tax (WHT), among others, to the treasury.

The unremitted taxes were pegged at N5.83billion (N5,828,621,715.06), and NACA reportedly has the highest unpaid sum, which is N2.98billion (N2,984,887,250.00).

“Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology, New Bussa has the least amount of N1m.”

The offence is said to have breached paragraphs 234 (I) and 235 of the Financial Regulations Act respectively.

“It is mandatory for accounting officers to ensure full compliance with the dual roles of making provision for the VAT and WHT due on supply services contract and actual remittance,” Section 234 stated.

“Deduction of VAT, WHT and PAYE shall be remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, at the same time, the payee who is the subject of the deduction is paid…”

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly on September 15, 2021, Aghughu submitted two copies of the findings to the NASS for action.

With reference number AuGF/AR.2019/02, the Auditor-General said his action to the lawmakers was in line with Sections 85 (2), (4) and (5) of the constitution.

The lawmakers are, thus, expected to act on the federation’s annual report and the consolidated financial statements to prevent leakages in government spending.

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Economy

News Alert: Nigeria lifts suspension on Twitter

After seven months of face-off, , the Nigerian government has finally lifted the suspension of Twitter’s operations in the country.

The government announced the suspension of the social media platform in June 2021, after it deleted a controversial tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari. The government also accused Twitter of working against Nigeria’s interest.

The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Abdullahi, announced the lifting of the suspension in a statement.

Mr Abdullahi was also involved in the Nigerian government’s negotiation with Twitter.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12 am tonight, 13th January 2022.

“The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim.

“In the Memo, the Minister updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.”

Since the suspension, millions of Twitter users have been unable to use the social media platform in Nigeria unless they use a Virtual Private Network.

Also, the owners of businesses on the platform have lost billions of Naira as a result of the face-off.
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