Abiodun OBA

 

Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), has raised concern over the Finance Act, claiming some sections negate its mandate of revenue collection.

Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd),  raised the concern at an interactive session with the leadership of the Senate and Senate Committee on Finance held at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja on Monday.

The session was organised “On the need to improve internally generated revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria and revenue projections of the agencies as contained in the Appropriation Act 2022.”

Ali noted “if we are talking of collection based on the provisions of the finance act, we must be sure we still have the mandate to collect.

“The law states in Section 61(A) as amended that this Act and the law listed in the First Schedule to this Act shall take precedence over any other laws with regards to the administration, assessment, collection, accounting, enforcement of taxes and levies due to the Federal Government.

“It further states that except in cases such that tax or levy is a subject of litigation in a court of competent jurisdiction.

“And if the provisions of any Act or any other law, including the enactment in the Fourth Schedule are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, the provisions of this Act shall prevail on the provisions of that other law to the extent of inconsistency should be void.

“All other laws which are laws that mandate us to collect, if they are to be consistent with this, then they are voided. Which then means that the laws that mandate us as revenue generating agencies are voided completely.”

He further explained that the provisions of the Act meant that the Service did not have the responsibility to collect revenue.

“We have consulted with legal luminaries and the conclusion is that this Act is confusing.

“If stakeholders decide to take leverage of this, they can decide to say we are not supposed to collect duties and levies and therefore they only pay to FIRS and that will be a complete, chaos to this country.”

However, the Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator Ahmad Lawan who was also at the event, directed the Finance Committees of the federal parliament to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Finance with a view to consider an amendment to the recently signed Finance Act 2022 in order to forestall avoidable loss of revenues.

Speaking at the event, Lawan said: “I wonder why the Ministry of Finance is not here because we need their intervention now. Their presence here would have provided some clarifications. We took it for granted that since it was an executive bill, that there were some engagements among the agencies of the federal government.

“We also called for a public hearing so that we could ex-ray it. You are saying that you don’t have the legal mandate to collect taxes and it is a scary revelation.

“The Senate Committee on Finance and the Ministry of Finance and other agencies would look at the Act. If it is established beyond reasonable doubts that we need to amend it, we will do so without delay.

“It will be the fastest amendment because we need you to collect more monies for the federal government.”

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola nevertheless clarified that the section cited by Ali was not targeted at the NCS.

Adeola explained: “What necessitated that singular act was as a result of the issue between the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission and the FIRS.

“There were clashes between them from time to time. Some activities of RMFAC were not in tandem with the Act that established it.

“We discovered that the only way that we can make their roles explicit is through the Finance Act concerning the assessment and accounting of taxes.

“We discovered that RMFAC personnel were going to agencies to audit their tax accounts which is not part of their responsibilities based on the law that established RMFAC.

“The only agency saddled with that responsibility is the FIRS. That was what that law tends to address. We are ready to look into it again if other revenue generating agencies believe that it has hindered them from performing their responsibilities and we would amend it accordingly.”

In attendance were other revenue-generating agencies including Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) among others.

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