The 36 state governments have sued the Federal Government over its alleged failure to remit funds generated from stamp duties into the state accounts.
The states, through their Attorneys-General, are contending that they, and not the Federal Government should collect the stamp duties.
In a suit filed before the Supreme Court on Thursday, they asked the court to determine whether or not they are the sole authority to administer and collect stamp duties on all transactions involving individuals and persons within their respective states.
They have also asked the court to ascertain whether or not they are entitled to 85% of all stamp duties collected on electronic money transfer levy, on electronic receipts or electronic transfers for money deposited in deposit money banks and financial institutions.
The states also asked for “a declaration that the defendant is not entitled to collect, administer, or keep the proceeds of any stamp duties on transactions involving individuals within the respective states of the plaintiffs or any manner interfere with the Plaintiff’s right and authority in the administering the provision of Section 4(2) of the Stamp Duties Act Cap. S8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“A declaration that the plaintiffs are entitled to all the sums of money collected by the defendant as stamp duties through whatever source or means in their respective states from 2015-2020 and thereafter till the time of the judgment of this honourable court with respect to individual persons’ transactions,” the Statement of Claims, read in part.
This comes amid the conflict between some states and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) over the collection of Value-Added Tax (VAT).
The Supreme Court is, however, yet to fix a date for the matter to be heard.
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has described the decision of the Federal Government to impose a six per cent stamp duty on every tenancy and lease agreement in the country, as a harsh fiscal policy that is insensitive to the plights of citizens.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the NLC President, Mr Ayuba Waba, rejected the new stamp duty policy of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) and instead, recommended that the government considers introducing property tax on the numerous unoccupied houses across the country that are presumably owned by the rich.
The statement also described the decision to enforce the tenancy and lease agreement tax, as illogical and inhumane, especially because of the harsh economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poor.
“We call on the Federal Government and the Federal Inland Revenue Service to rescind this harsh fiscal measure as it is boldly insensitive to the material condition of Nigerians which has been compounded by the Covid-19 health insurgency.
“Nobody would want to be a tenant if they had an alternative. This means that tenants which this new policy targets are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It would be illogical, insensitive and inhumane to churn out laws that make our poor go to bed at night with tears in their eyes.
“The principle of public taxation especially progressive taxation all over the world is that the rich subsidises for the poor. Every tax policy that would be enforceable must create a safety net for the poor. Recent policies of government indicate otherwise. Accommodation is a fundamental right guaranteed by Nigeria’s constitution.
“It is unimaginable that tenants who are in the most vulnerable group would be expected to pay 6% tax for accommodation when sales tax is 1.5%. This is indeed a great injustice against the Nigerian poor. Government must take deliberate steps to avoid institutionalizing the widespread belief that it is a crime to be poor in Nigeria,” the statement read in part.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), on July 22, asked landlords and property agents to ensure that they charge 6 per cent Stamp Duty on all tenancy and lease agreements they enter into with all renters and remit same promptly to the Service so that they do not run foul of the Stamp Duty Act.
According to the Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Muhammad Nami, property-related transactions like tenancy or lease agreement fall under the Ad Valorem category of the stamp duty which attracts 6 per cent duty payable in the percentage of the total value or sum of the tenancy or lease.
A total of N66 billion has been generated as stamp duty revenue by the Federal Government between January and June 2020.
The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services, Muhammad Nami, disclosed this during the inauguration of the inter-ministerial committee on audit and recovery of back years stamp duties.
Mr Nami while giving a breakdown of the revenue added that the Finance Act has mandated the revenue agency as the sole body to receive stamp duties for the country.
“We have collected and remitted from money deposit banks in this year alone, a total of N20 billion. From Stamp Duties Revenue from stamping of instruments at CAC, we have realised about 7.9 billion. The amount now remitted as at the point I was appointed, stood at 39 billion. So, total stamp duty remitted, into federation account from January 2020 to June (as at yesterday) stood at N66 billion,” he said.
The Senate on Tuesday resolved to probe the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its subsidiary, the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) over an allegedly failure to remit N20 trillion revenue to the Federation Account.
CBN reportedly collected the amount as stamp duty from banks and financial institutions in the country.
The resolution follows a motion by Senator representing Ondo central, Ayo Akinyelure.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria and NIBBS have technically refused to comply with the presidential directives for the recovery of over N20 trillion revenue into the coffers of government.
“The CBN and NIBSS deliberately failed to cooperate and comply with the directives of Mr President for the realisation of over N20 trillion revenue due from stamp duties collected for 2013 to 2016 and subsequently over N5 trillion minimum revenue due to be collected annually to the federation account to be shared among states of the federation for infrastructural and economic development.
“The Senate must consider whether the target N20 trillion fund is being recycled into private banks when federal government had directed its recovery,” he said.
The lawmakers expressed concerns that despite government decision to appoint a consultant to help it recovered the money; the CBN and NIBSS have technically refused to comply with the presidential directive for the recovery of the money into the Federation Account.
Senator Isah Jibrin in his contribution said, “I want to support this motion. The issue is a major problem with financial remittance. The issue is to unravel who is benefiting from the non-compliance of this directive from President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The Senate then resolved to Mandate the Committee on Finance to investigate this issue of over N20 trillion unremitted stamp duties revenue due to the Federal Government of Nigeria from banks and other financial institutions through (NIBSS) a subsidiary of CBN for 2013 – 2016 and financial accountability of stamp duty collections from 2016 when the CBN officially directed all banks to collect on behalf of the federal government to date.
In his concluding remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said, “I engaged the Ministry of Finance and CBN for an interaction, and I discovered that what we have been expecting to be available as stamp duty is not so.
“I was under the impression that we had over N20 trillion somewhere. It will interest you to know that we don’t even have N1 trillion. What has happened is because those that are supposed to collect the stamp duties were taking advantage of the non-electronic transaction.
“With the passage of the finance bill, this is an opportunity we have to start getting what ordinarily should go to the government.
“The banks and many private organizations have taken advantage of the way the stamp duties have been.
“I want to believe that from January 2020, when the Finance Bill will start being effective, the stamp duty collection will be significantly improved,” he said.
Lawan added that is for our Finance Committee to monitor closely what the collection should be.
“We would like to know in the first quarter how much they have collected, and if they have not met targets; if they have met targets, how do we do better than that? The idea is not to slow agencies to do whatever they want.”
A special panel constituted by the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa will on April 7 hear the appeal filed by 22 commercial banks challenging a judgement of a Federal High Court delivered by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke which ordered them to remit to Nigerian Postal Services through KASMAL International Services limited, a sum of N50 as stamp duty on every transaction from N1, 000 and above.
The five-man panel presided over by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa adjourned the appeal for hearing and directed that notices should be issued to all parties in the matter.
At the lower court, KASMAL International Services had, urged the court to order the banks to give effect to the Agency Agreement between it and the Nigerian Postal Services as well as the Corporate Agreement between it and the School of Banking Honours (the 23rd & 24th defendants) respectively.
The banks affected are, Access Bank Plc, Citibank Nigeria Limited, Diamond Bank Plc, ECObank Plc, Enterprise Bank Plc, Fidelity, First Bank Nigeria Plc, First Monument bank Plc, First Inland Bank Plc, and Heritage Banking Company Limited.
Others are Mainstreet Banking Limited, Skye Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Limited, Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Union bank Plc, United Bank of Nigeria Plc, Unity bank Plc, WEMA bank Plc, Unity bank Plc and Zenith bank Plc.
Justice Aneke had in his judgement declared that upon a community reading and the construction of the provisions of the Stamp Duties Act 2004, NIPOST Act 2004 and the Federal Government of Nigeria Financial Regulations 2009, the 22 banks are obliged to deduct and remit to NIPOST through the plaintiff a sum of N50 as stamp duty on all receipts by electronic transfer or teller deposit of monies from N1000 upward made into accounts operated in all their branches.
Dissatisfied, the bank in their separate notice of appeal urged the appellate court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgement of the lower court.
They argued that the lower court erred in law when it held that KASMAL International Services Limited’s suit was properly commenced by originating summons.
The appellants through their respective counsel stated that the lower court judge erred in law when he held that the respondent had the locus standi to institute the suit for the recovery of stamp duties.
They also faulted the decision of the lower court when it held that the banks transactions relating to electronic funds transfer of its customers and teller deposits of funds by its customers can be described as receipts within the provisions of Section 89 of the Stamp Duties Act.
‘’The learned trial judge erred in law and misdirected himself when he granted the reliefs sought by the plaintiff and ordered that the appellants (banks) are liable to deduct and remit the sum of N50 as Stamp Duties and electronic transfers on amounts equalling or in excess of N1, 000 in all the banks’ branches and also pay the penalty of N20 to the plaintiff.
They argued that what the law says is to attach adhesive stamps ad-valorem on assessed documents and not to remit any money whatsoever to the Nigerian Postal services
Contrary to the verdict of the lower court, the appellants stated that only the President and the governor of a state have the power to make regulations concerning the Stamp Duty Act in carrying into effect the objects and purposes of the Stamp Duty Act.
The appellant stated further that the lower court misdirected itself in holding that the plaintiff/respondent who has no privy of contract with the banks has succeeded in establishing a cause of action for breach of contract notwithstanding the Plaintiff do not have locus standi to sue the appellants.
The Peoples Democratic Party South West leader, Senator Buruji Kashamu, is the Chairman and Chief Executive of KASMAL International Services limited.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has released the exposure draft of the revised guide to bank charges upholding zero commission on turnover and the newly introduced one Naira per mille maintenance fee.
According to a circular signed by the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Mr Kevin Amugo, the review aims to ensure that the provisions of the guide is in line with current realities.
The apex bank also says the review will address complaints from depositors, requests for clarification on the provisions of the guide and absence of a tariff regime for other financial institutions.
The exposure draft proposes 50 naira monthly local debit card maintenance fee per annum against the current 100 naira per annum being charged while foreign currency denominated cards are to be charged 4,200 naira per annum.
The ‘No Banking’ directive declared on Tuesday to protest against the numerous excessive bank charges on customers was not effective in Akwa Ibom State as the state witnessed normal banking activities.
Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital witnessed uninterrupted banking activities, including ATM services.
Everyone who spoke to Channels Television in Uyo said that they were not aware of the no banking directive.
They, however, condemned the excessive charges but advised the advocacy foundation to consider the option of influencing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to check the banks’ excesses, noting that the ‘No Banking’ option cannot work as people cannot survive without their money.
They were of the opinion that only CBN can effectively protect the customers against exploitation by the banks.
Commercial activities were also seen going on smoothly in all the banks located in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
Bank staff and customers at some of the new generation banks, turned up for their usual financial transactions with most of them claiming to be unaware of the directive to shun all bank related activities.
A Bank Manager who spoke with Channels Television said that his branch was unaware of plans to shun banking activities. He also pointed out the peaceful working and business environment across the state capital.
The Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria and the coalition of Nigerian consumer protection associations had declared today, March 1, 2016 “No Banking Day”.
The two bodies are asking bank customers across the country not to enter banking halls, make transfers, deposits or make use of their cards for any transaction throughout the day.
According to them, the banking boycott is to protest the charges introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria.