From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has directed governors of the 36 states to comply with the audit and recovery of backlog of stamp duty from January 15, 2016 to June 30, 2020.
The directive was contained in letters by the AGF to the governors and predicated on the provision of section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act that exclusively empowers the AGF to recover any outstanding payment or remittances relating to stamp duty.
The letter read in part: “Pursuant to Mr. President’s approval and directives, I also wish to request Your Excellency to direct the state Ministries, Departments, Agencies, and Regulatory Institutions of Financial Sector to engage and grant access to the appointed recovery agents for the purpose of the audit and recovery of stamp duty to ensure that all established liabilities are remitted as appropriate. The recoveries are being conducted for the Federal Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) and Financial Institutions. At this stage, liabilities are being established, and no actual recovery has been made.”
Malami’s position was contained in n a statement by his spokesperson, Dr. Umar Gwandu, in response to agitation by governors.
The 36 states, through their attorneys-general, had dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court over alleged failure to remit funds generated from stamp duties into state accounts.
In the suit marked SC/CV/690/2021, the states contended that they were legally vested with authority to administer and collect stamp duties on all transactions involving individuals and persons within their territories, and not the Federal Government. They prayed the court for an order directing the Federal Government to account for and pay back all monies collected by way of stamp duties on individual persons’ transactions within their respective states from 2015 to 2020 and till the time of the judgment.
The states also sought an order of court directing the Federal Government to pay to the states all the sum of monies amounting to N176, 067, 400, 000 representing ascertained and admitted collected stamp duties on individual persons’ transactions within their respective states for the period of 2015- 2020 and thereafter till the time of the judgment of court or any other sum as the plaintiffs may be found entitled by the court.
However, Malami in the letter to the governors urged them to comply with the audit and recovery of outstanding stamp duties.
Section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act provides that: “All duties, fines, penalties and debts due to the government of the federation imposed by this Act shall be recoverable in a summarily manner in the name of the Attorney General of the Federation or The AGF said what he did was to activate those powers, conduct the audit and recovery of back years stamp duty in collaboration with stakeholders.
Malami said what he did was to activate those powers and conduct the audit and recovery of a backlog of stamp duty in collaboration with stakeholders.
He said the Federal Government had set up an inter-ministerial committee on audit and recovery of back years stamp duties from January 15 2016 to June 30, 2020.
Members of the committee are drawn from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria, Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, among others.