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Senate Probes Alleged Illegal Spending Of N567bn By Customs, FIRS

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[caption id="attachment_1020" align="alignnone" width="600"]FILE PHOTO[/caption]

The Senate on Thursday commenced a probe of the unauthorised spending of N567 billion allegedly collected as tax by both the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) between January 2005 and July 2015.

The probe is based on a petition by a non-governmental organisation, Legislative Watch, sent to Senate President Bukola Saraki on August 13, 2015.

The senate thereafter referred the case to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.

According to a document obtained from the Federal Ministry of Finance which was presented to the committee by the petitioner, the average monthly tax revenue collected by the NCS is N2.5 billion.

If the allegation is true, the total amount held back by NCS between January 2005 and July 2015 stands at N315 billion.

In the same vein, the document showed that the average monthly realisable revenue of FIRS is N2 billion. This also implies that a whopping sum of N252 billion was withheld by FIRS during the same period.

This put the total amount collected by both agencies during the period at N567 billion.

Defending the petition before the committee, Executive Secretary of Legislative Watch, Ngozi Ihuoma, alleged that the amount represented the seven percent cost of tax collection paid to the NCS and the four percent also paid to the FIRS during the period.

The group alleged that the two agencies deducted the money from the amount collected on behalf of the Federal Government without appropriation by the National Assembly contrary to the provisions of the constitution.

Specifically, Ihuoma claimed that the action of the agencies’ management was against Sections 162 (3) and 165 of the constitution.

“We have observed that deduction of cost of collection started in January 2005 and the two agencies have been receiving the said percentages without appropriation from the National Assembly.

“We are worried that this cost of collection forms part of leakages to the federation account and contravenes Section 162 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“We further observe that both agencies – NCS and FIRS – have failed to render account of the utilisation of this cost of collection from 2005 to date to the National Assembly.

“We have further noted that the Comptroller-General of the NCS has been using the seven percent cost of collection to buy private houses for private uses,” the petitioner said.

The group therefore tasked the Senate to investigate the utilisation of these seven percent and four percent respective costs of tax remitted to the NCS and the FIRS.

The committee is yet to fix a specific date for the appearance of the two agencies over the petitions.