By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami has disclosed that the federal government is looking to grow the tax revenue base in the coming years by N900 billion from offshore assets through the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS).
The minister revealed this in Abuja at the third annual conference on financial fraud, electoral fraud and cross-border crime organised by Forensic Insight and the Nigeria Police Force.
Malami, who was represented on the occasion by the Special Assistant to the President on Financial Crimes, Mr. Abiodun Aikomo, said: “It is also expected that the VOARS will earn significant revenue for the Federal Government of Nigeria estimated conservatively at 2.5 billion Swiss Francs (approximately over N900 billion), and yield a new expanded tax base from which FGN will earn future tax revenue.”
Although he noted that the federal government was worried by the criticisms that trailed some of its anti-corruption and asset recovery policies, he insisted that most of the backlash was driven by selfish motive.
Speaking particularly on attacks that greeted the issuance of the Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 on the Preservation of Assets Connected with Corruption, Malami said since its issuance in July 2018, the Order had been greeted by series of litigations challenging its constitutionality.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on July 5, 2018, signed Executive Order No.6 directing relevant enforcement agencies to ensure that persons undergoing corruption trial do not have access to their properties suspected to be proceeds of corruption.
With the Order, such assets valued at N50 million and above (subject to investigation or litigation) are protected from dissipation by employing all available lawful or statutory means including appropriate orders of court, pending the final determination of any corruption-related matter.
The minister lamented that the Executive Order 6 has come under serious criticisms even by ordinary Nigerians whose interest the policy seeks to protect, adding that contrary to assumption by critics, the Executive Order No. 6 has the legal backing of the law.
He explained that the Order became necessary to ensure fairness in prosecuting financial fraud cases, stressing: “There are several laws in Nigeria which permit the seizure and forfeiture of assets either temporarily or conclusively depending on the court ruling, unfortunately we observe that these laws have not been effectively implemented.
“The implication is that fraud suspects with huge financial war chest and our level of development coupled with the way the court system works around here, you are almost certain that nothing will come out of it because with limitless access to such funds, the suspects are able to influence the process.”
Despite the challenges, the AGF said the present administration was committed to the recovery of looted funds for the benefit of Nigerians.
Already, he said government has recovered N13.8 billion from tax evaders under its Whistleblowing programme, and another N7.8 billion, US$378 million and £27,800 in recoveries from public officials.
In his remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of Forensic Insight, Mr. Awotunji Aworinde, said the three-day conference will among others, seek to analyse and evaluate anti-corruption measures of the Nigerian government, including the National Anti-Corruption Strategy document and their effectiveness in preventing corruption and corrupt practices.