Malami: Why I Referred MTN Tax Dispute to FIRS, Customs

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Abubakar Malami
Abubakar Malami

By Alex Enumah

Reasons why the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN referred the tax dispute involving MTN telecommunications limited emerged Friday in Abuja.

Malami had in 2018 demanded the sum of N242,244,452,212.97 and USD$1,283,610357.86 being alleged Revenue Indebtedness from MTN Nigeria Communications PLC (MTN Nigeria).

However, in a letter written to MTN’s lawyer, which was dated January 8, 2020, Malami withdrew the demand and informed the company that the case would be referred to the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian Customs Service to handle.

Explaining the reason behind the decision to hand over the case to the government agencies, Malami said such activities fall within the purview of their constitutional mandate.

The AGF’s explanation was contained in a statement by his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu.

“The Federal Inland Revenue and Nigerian Custom Services are the
regulatory authorities vested with the powers of monitoring foreign
exchange utilization and assessment of taxes among others as canvassed
and contended by the parties in their respective submissions”, Malami noted in the statement.

According to him, the decision to refer the matter to the two government agencies was in line with oversight functions of Customs and Excise Management Act and Federal Inland Revenue Service relating to monitoring foreign exchange utilization and prevention of illegal
trade, in case of customs, and assessment, collection and accounting
for tax and other revenues accruing to the Federal Government, as it
relates to Federal Inland Revenue Service.

The media aide noted that with the decision the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of
Justice has demonstrated unflinching commitment to the rule of law where
all statutory agencies will be allowed to independently work with a
view to fulfilling their mandates and recourse to them in contentious
cases, as regulatory agencies of government on issues that border on
their statutory mandate.

The statement said, “Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar
Malami, SAN has transferred the continuation of resolving MTN dispute
with the Federal Government to the Federal Inland Revenue Service and
Nigerian Custom Service”.

According to the statement, the Minister made the development known in
a letter dated 8th January, 2020 addressed to MTN’s Counsel; Messrs
Wole Olanipekun & Co.
The letter said, “having carefully and painstakingly reviewed
the correspondence reference and following due consultation with
relevant statutory agencies, the Office of the Honourable
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has decided
to refer the matter under reference to Federal Inland Revenue Services
and Nigeria Custom Services with a view to resolving contentious
issues”.

The letter further added that “you may wish to be informed and be
guided for time being, pending the outcome of the interrogation of the
relevant statutory agencies.
The Federal Inland Revenue and Nigerian Custom Services are the
regulatory authorities vested with the powers of monitoring foreign
exchange utilization and assessment of taxes among others as canvassed
and contended by the parties in their respective submissions.

“The development is in line with oversight functions of Customs and Excise Management Act and Federal Inland Revenue Service relating to monitoring foreign exchange utilization and prevention of illegal
trade, in case of customs, and assessment, collection and accounting
for tax and other revenues accruing to the Federal Government, as it
relates to Federal Inland Revenue Service.

“With this the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of
Justice demonstrates unflinching commitment to the rule of law where
all statutory agencies will be allowed to independently work with a
view to fulfilling their mandates and recourse to them in contentious
cases, as regulatory agencies of government on issues that border on
their statutory mandate.”