- Row in Senate Over $3.8bn Subsidy Payment Probe
The Senate has begun a fresh investigation into the alleged illegal subsidy payment on Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The probe, however, divided members of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the chamber on Tuesday.
Earlier, the Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti-South), raised a point of order, urging the Senate to probe the NNPC for paying subsidy on petrol without the approval of the National Assembly.
Olujimi said, “Since 1999, there has always been a budget for subsidy but this has been jettisoned by the current government. What is happening now is that there is a fund named as ‘Subsidy Recovery Fund’, which is being managed only by two individuals at the NNPC. That is the Managing Director and the Executive Director, Finance. This fund is too huge to be managed without recourse to any known law of the land.
“Right now, it is almost certain that the $3.8bn is slush fund, which is being managed by two individuals under a new terminology.
“I want to urge this Senate to cause the Downstream Committee to compel the NNPC to come before the committee and explain why this should be so. The new terminology that is now being used is ‘under-recovery’ rather than subsidy approval.”
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, recalled that when the National Assembly passed the 2018 Appropriation Bill, it requested that the executive should send a supplementary budget that would capture subsidy on petrol and legalise the payment.
Saraki said, “I will want to suggest that in the light of the enormity of the issues before us, where we are talking about subsidy of almost $3.8bn, which, if you remember when we did pass the budget, I said from here that there was the need for the executive to bring before us fuel subsidy item. This has always been the practice. And this money is too huge for it not to be appropriated.
“In the light of the enormity of this, I want to suggest that the Senate Leader, with the Chairman of the Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), should urgently summon those in the NNPC, who are responsible (for the payment), to look into the matter and come back to us with a report that we can all debate.”
The issue, however, became controversial when Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) accused the Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) of being compromised.
Ndume said, “I think the committee – I don’t want to be too hard on them – is not doing its oversight and when all these things happen, the committee is supposed to know. So, I am suggesting that Marafa, being the Chairman of that committee, should be out of this and the committee members too.
“The Senate Leader and other members of the Senate should look at this thing objectively and not be partisan, because by the time you have such amount of money stashed somewhere, it calls for more question. As distinguished Senator Bukar Abba (Ibrahim) said, not I, the committee might be compromised. That is what he said.”
Saraki ruled that an ad hoc committee be set up to conduct the probe, while appointing the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, as its chairman.
Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central), who was irked by Ndume’s comment, raised a point of order to demand a retraction of the statement. He said his committee was ready to be excluded from the probe or dissolved.
Responding, Saraki said, “Senator Marafa, listen to yourself. You decided to choose the same offensive words against your colleague. You have to first withdraw what you have just said.”
Lawan subsequently withdrew from the probe.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, however, urged Lawan not to withdraw from the probe.
“While I associate myself with what the leader said, I think he was so angry to listen to what happened. The Leader needs to calm down as we set up the ad hoc committee. He should say he should be excluded from the committee, not that he wants to withdraw when he has not been given the job,” Ekweremadu said.
Saraki insisted that Lawan would lead the ad hoc committee as the amount involved was too huge to be left with the Marafa-led committee.
FIRS Sets N5.9 Trillion Revenue Target for 2021
FIRS to Generate N5.9 Trillion Revenue in 2021
Mohammed Nami, the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, on Friday said the agency is projecting total revenue of N5.9 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year.
Nami stated this while meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Finance led by Hon. James Falake on the Service’s 2021 budget defence of its proposed Revenue and Expenditure Estimates.
According to the Chairman, N4.26 trillion and N1.64 trillion were expected to come from non-oil and oil components, respectively.
However, Nami put the cost of collecting the projected revenue at N289.25 billion or 7 percent of the proposed total revenue for the year, higher than the N180.76 billion spent in 2020 to fund the three operational expenditure heads for the year.
He said: “Out of the proposed expenditure of N289.25 billion across the three expenditure heads, the sum of N147.08 billion and N94.97 billion are to be expended on Personnel and Overhead Costs against 2020 budgeted sum of N97.36 billion and N43.64 billion respectively. Also, the sum of N47.19 billion is estimated to be expended on capital items against the budgeted sum of N27.80 billion in 2020. The sum is to cater for on-going and new projects for effective revenue drive.”
Speaking on while the agency failed to meet its 2020 target, Nami said “There’s lockdown effect on businesses, implementation directive also for us to study, research best practices on tax administration which involves travelling to overseas and we also have to expand offices and create offices more at rural areas to get closer to the taxpayers, we pay rent for those offices and this could be the reason why all these things went up.
“And if you have more staff surely, their salary will go up, taxes that you’re going to pay on their behalf will go up, the National Housing Fund contribution, PENCOM contribution will go up. Those promoted you have to implement a new salary regime for them. There’s also the issue of inflation and exchange rate differential”, he said.
Gov Emmanuel Attracts $1.4b Fertilizer Plant to Akwa Ibom
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has signed an agreement for the citing of a multi billion fertilizer plant in his State.
Governor Emmanuel was part of a Nigerian delegation led by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, that visited Morocco to set out the next steps of the $1.4 Bln fertilizer production plant project launched in June 2018.
The agreement between the OCP Africa, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and the Akwa Ibom State Government will birth one of the biggest investments in the fertilizer production industry worldwide.
The signing ceremony took place at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UMP6).
Mr. Emmanuel signed one of the agreements of the partnership, which covers a memorandum of understanding between OCP Africa, the Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria and the NSIA on land acquisition, administrative facilitation, and common agricultural development projects in the Akwa Ibom State.
Speaking while signing the agreement, Governor Emmanuel said, “Our state is receptive to investments and we are prepared to offer the necessary support to make the project a reality.
“With a site that is suitably located to enable operational logistics and an abundance of gas resources, all that is left is for the parties to accelerate the project development process”, Mr. Udom said.
The agreement reached between the Nigerian Government and the OCP further links OCP, Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), the NNPC, the Gas Aggregation Company Nigeria (GACN), and the NSIA.
The two partners agreed to strengthen further their solid partnership leveraging Nigerian gas and the Moroccan phosphate.
This project will lead to a multipurpose industrial platform in Nigeria, which will use Nigerian gas and Moroccan phosphate to produce 750,000 tons of ammonia and 1 million tons of phosphate fertilizers annually by 2025.
The visit of the Nigerian delegation to Morocco takes place within the frame of the partnership sealed between OCP Group and the Nigerian Government to support and develop Nigeria’s agriculture industry.
Following the success of the first phase of Nigeria‘s Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and the progress of the fertilizer production plant project launched in 2018 by OCP and NSIA, the Moroccan phosphates group and the Nigerian government delegation have agreed on the next steps of their joint project which is rapidly taking shape.
Several cooperation agreements were inked on Tuesday at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) by OCP Africa and the Nigerian delegation. Through these deals, OCP reaffirms its unwavering support of agricultural development initiatives in Nigeria including PFI.
OCP Africa and the NSIA have agreed, inter alia, to set up a joint venture which will oversee the development of the industrial platform that will produce ammonia and fertilizers in Nigeria.
The OCP has also pledged to supply Nigerian famers with quality fertilizers adapted to the needs of their soil at competitive prices and produced locally.
ICPC Says Nigeria Loses $10bn to Illicit Financial Flows
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says Nigeria accounts for 20 per cent or 10 billion dollars (N3.8 trillion) of the estimated 50 billion dollars that Africa loses to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).
Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said this during a virtual meeting to review a report on IFFs in relation to tax, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, spokesperson for ICPC, said in a statement released in Abuja on Friday.
The ICPC Chairman said, “the African Union Illicit Financial Flow Report estimated that Africa is losing nearly 50 billion dollars through profit shifting by multinational corporations and about 20 per cent of this figure is from Nigeria alone.”
The ICPC boss explained that taxes played “very strategic role in the nation’s political economy.”
He said the objective of the meeting was to improve on the awareness on IFFs, especially in the areas of taxation.
The ICPC boss added that the meeting would give participants the opportunity to openly discuss how to effectively use the instrumentality of taxation to curb IFFs through risk-based approach.
“Risk-based approach, that is: monitoring and audit; due process in tax collection; structured tax amnesty framework skewed in public interest; data privacy; timely resolution of audits and payment of tax refunds and intelligence sharing among revenue generating, regulatory and law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Owasanoye also stated that for the contemporary tax man to remain relevant, he must build his capacity in areas of technology management, solution architects and an astute relationship manager.
The Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Mr Muhammad Nani, expressed concerns that IFFs posed a serious threat to the Nigerian economy as the act robbed the nation of resources that were needed for development.
Nani declared that tackling IFFs would expand the country’s tax base and improve revenue generation, which was required for development.
He consequently pushed for policy reforms that would make it difficult for “capital flights” from occurring so that the country would be placed on the path of growth.
Other discussants at the event identified weak regulatory framework, opacity of financial system and lack of capacity amongst others as some of the factors that fuelled IFFs.
The discussants emphasised the need for capacity building of relevant stakeholders as one of the ways to stamp out illicit financial flows.
They commended ICPC for leveraging its corruption prevention mandate to open a new vista in IFFs discourse in Nigeria. (NAN)
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