By Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate has commenced investigations into alleged non remittance into the Federation Account of N20 trillion stamp duty collected since the last five years by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Uba Sani, said on Thursday that his committee decided to probe the apex bank following petitions from the public that the CBN allegedly failed to remit stamp duty totalling over N20 trillion collected from the commercial banks to the Federation Account since it was introduced in 2016.
The committee, he stressed, is investigating the matter but cautioned against inflammatory and potentially damaging comments on the issue.
Sani further disclosed that his committee had received petitions on this allegation against the CBN “and for the past six months we have been meticulously investigating the matter”.
He, however, stated that what the committee has uncovered so far is not what some petitioners want Nigerians to believe thereby urging members of the public, especially critical stakeholders, not to be in a hurry to conclude that the CBN has actually erred.
The lawmaker added that since the inauguration of his committee last year, the alleged non-remittance of stamp duty by the CBN has been on the front burner and receiving requisite attention at the committee level.
The committee, he added, has obtained records of other agencies of the federal government investigating or familiar with the matter apart from information sourced from the apex bank.
He said: “It is much more complicated than what most Nigerians know. However, what I can say for now is that from what we have been able to sieve out from documents available to us as well as the depositions we have taken, it is clear that so many forces are confusing Nigerians on this issue.
“With the evidence contained in the plethora of documents the CBN has supplied to my committee, it can easily be deduced that the total stamp duty unremitted cannot be over N20 trillion as being alleged. For one, from records available to us, the total deposit in the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria as of 2016 was only about N18 trillion; so how then can stamp duties alone be N21 trillion as being claimed by some petitioners?”
He further revealed that from records available to his committee, stamp duty collection commenced in January 2016 when the CBN issued the circular directing Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to commence imposition of stamp duty collection and that from the records, the CBN and other agencies of the federal government have supplied to the Senate Committee, it is glaring that the total number of transactions, including transactions excluded from stamp duty charge, from 2016 to November 2017 is about N518,043,467.
“If you do the simple arithmetic, the stamp duty on these transactions would have amounted to about N25.902 billion. Don’t also forget that savings accounts are exempted from payment of stamp duty by law, and these account for about 75 per cent of all bank accounts. With all things considered, my committee believes that the sum remitted by banks to the Stamp Duty Collection Account with the CBN from inception in January 2016 would well be around N41 billion as of October 2019. But like I said, investigations are still on-going. Be rest assured that our conclusive findings would be made available to the public. Nigerians deserve to know the whole truth,” the committee chairman said.
On whether or not the N41 billion earned from stamp duty has been remitted to the Federation Account by the CBN, Sani emphasised that his committee is not unaware of a number of court cases preventing the apex court from making the remittances.
According to him, “That is exactly what I was trying to make you understand, this matter is more complex than the petitioners are making it seem. For example, we have found out that the CBN is somewhat shackled and unable to make the remittances because of pending cases in court; particularly the one pending in the Supreme Court.
“I don’t want to give too much details on the matters that are in court, you can find out from either the CBN or parties in the matter. But I believe the CBN is acting out of respect for the courts.”