By James Emejo
The Registrar General, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Mr. Garba Abubakar has said it is collaborating with relevant government agencies to ensure that registered companies that do not file their returns are henceforth barred from public transactions.
He said there is an existing collaboration with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) through systems integration to identify the companies in default, adding that “it is not enough for you to pay taxes without filing returns”.
He added that a status page will soon be created for all companies where information regarding tax and returns and whether they are active or dormant will be published.
Speaking during an interactive session with journalists at the weekend, Abubakar also said the commission planned to perfect its electronic system architecture by December in order to completely phase out manual searching and registration in order to preserve the integrity of public documents.
He said in an effort to sanitise the registry going forward, the commission will no longer allow external clients particularly lawyers to manually conduct searches on its records, citing instances of theft of public documents and use of fake signatures, among other infractions.
The registrar general also clarified its recent decision to withdraw of certificate issued Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly, adding that the certificate “should not have been issued in the first place” as the group never got the mandatory security clearance.
He also took time to refute recent allegations that members of the National Assembly were colluding with CAC staff to remove information concerning their either membership or ownership of some companies amidst the ongoing investigative hearing into the allegations of corruption in the Niger Delta Development commission (NDDC).
Abubakar also said the CAC will soon be vested with powers to suspend trustees where there is any misconduct, suspicion of fraud as well as order inquiry into the affairs of any registered association under Part C.
He said the amendments to its establishing Act which have been passed by both chambers of the National Assembly and awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.
On the withdrawal of certificate of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, he said: “Yes, we have withdrawn the certificate of Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly because the certificate should not have been issued in the first place.
“We have an established protocol that all organisations with ethnic, religious or political implications should be referred for security clearance before such organisations are registered.
“In 2017, a similar organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide applied to register, the security agencies rejected it. It would amount to double standards to allow another organisation to register. Up till now, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is not registered because they were not given security clearance.
“We have the South-south Youth Forum and so many other organisations that have not been allowed to register.
So, what we have done after withdrawing the certificates, we now referred the application for vetting and if at the end of the day we are advised that the objects are in consistent with what the law says and that the trustees are proper, then we will go ahead and register them. But until then we have withdrawn the certificate and we have published that that certificate has been withdrawn. They have threatened to go to court; we are lawyers, we will face them in court.”
Also, on the need to need to eliminate manual registration, he said: “I have alluded to concerns about pilfering of our documents when our documents were being handled by external persons. We had instances whereby files were removed from this building and you can’t place responsibility on staff because you have other people coming to check these records.
“But now that these documents will be exclusively handled by our staff, you have staff assigned to handle specifically files and if anything happens to a file, you know who to hold responsible.
“So, these are some of the reasons why we say external customers should not handle it in as much as we may have bad eggs within the system even among the customers; some of them were doing that. So, as a way of safeguarding the integrity of these records, we will only process these applications without any external customers handling it.”
He said contrary to insinuations that some persons have been paid to remove some names from the registry, “We don’t just have physical records, we also have electronic records, even if somebody takes out the hard-copy from the files, the scanned copy in our documents archives will still show that these files were made and a director was at a particularly post within a particularly period of time. It’s still a mere allegation and we are waiting for proofs.”