House Summons Finance Minister, FIRS, Others over Loss of Revenue to Illicit Financial Flows

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By Adedayo Akinwale

The House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Finance, the Heads of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over the continuous loss of government revenue to illicit financial flows (IFFs).

The House issued the summons following the adoption of a motion moved at plenary on Thursday by Hon. Ochiglegor Idagbo.

Moving the motion, Idagbo explained that illicit financial flow (IFF) is the cross-border transfer of capital that was illegally earned, transferred or utilised and often consists of commercial money laundering, tax evasion and proceeds of corruption and criminal activities.

The lawmaker noted that the socio-economic development of Nigeria has deeply suffered due to the unabated cross-border financial dealings of the nation’s revenues resulting from IFF.

Idagbo stressed that the report of the Global Financial Integrity, 2014 showed that Nigeria lost a minimum of $140 billion to illicit financial flows between 2000 and 2014, mainly to crude oil and commercial activities mispricing.

He said it was based on this that Nigeria was ranked among the global top 30 countries having illicit financial outflows by dollar value and in 2015, a total of $8.3 billion was involved in the illicit financial outflows.

Idagbo expressed worry that the Tax Justice Network and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that developing countries, including Nigeria, lose over $200 billion per year to illicit financial flows as multinational corporations neglect, fail and/or refuse to pay taxes, despite generating substantial profits.

The lawmaker observed that the net official development aid received by Nigeria in 2017 was $3,358,790,000 and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated over $526.7 million in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin since 2017, yet neither of the aforementioned figures matches the estimated $15 and $18 billion Nigeria lost to IFFs annually hence Nigeria continues to struggle with growing inequality, poor infrastructure and lacking service delivery.

Idagbo lamented that despite having at least 12 institutions and agencies responsible for tackling IFFs and related crimes, Nigeria continues to be menaced by weak regulatory structures and complicity of other financial secrecy, among others.

He expressed worry that an estimated 60% of IFF from Nigeria is predominantly committed by multinational corporations which continue to drive the cross-border siphoning of the country’s revenues to the direct and/or indirect benefit of foreign economies.

Idagbo noted that international information sharing and domestication of relevant policies have become a global priority to ensure cross-border cooperation to tackle this global threat to national revenue generation and its negative economic and developmental impacts.

The House resolved to “invite the Minister of Finance, the Heads of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and any other relevant institutions, to address the committees on the continuous loss of government revenues to illicit financial flows and present report on the measures to curb revenue losses, particularly the coordinated implementation of the automatic exchange of information standard, to prevent further revenue leakages, curb tax evasion and money laundering activities”.

It also mandated the Committees on Finance, National Planning and Economic Development, Anti-Corruption, Financial Crimes, Banking and Currency and Insurance and Actuarial Matters to appraise the FIRS current framework for identifying, tracing, preventing and sanctioning cross-border tax evasion and other illicit financial outflows.

It further mandated the Committees on Finance, Anti-corruption, Financial Crimes, Banking and Currency and Insurance and Actuarial Matters to investigate the phenomenon of IFFs and appraise the federal government’s current policy framework to curb the continuous loss of Nigeria’s’ revenues to IFFs.