The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Wednesday, denounced the suit instituted by the state governors over failure to remit funds generated from stamp duties.
This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen through the media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu.
The statement came barely one week after the 36 state governments dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court over the stamp duty controversy.
According to Malami, nothing was generated by the Federal Government, stating that it had earlier set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Audit and Recovery of back years Stamp Duties from January 15, 2016, to June 30, 2020.
“At this stage, liabilities are being established, and no actual recovery has been made”, Malami said, adding that the Committee was yet to make any recovery.
I a letter addressed to the Governors of the 36 states of the Federation, Malami stated:
“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.”
He said the recoveries were being conducted for Federal Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Financial Institutions, adding that Section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act, granted the AGF an exclusive power to recover any outstanding payment or remittances related to stamp duty.
The statement further disclosed that the letters were written to the governors, pursuant to tprovision of Section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act, which it said 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 State”.
Malami said all he did was to activate the powers conferred on him by the Act, to conduct an audit and recovery of backlog of stamp duties, in collaboration with stakeholders.
He said that members of the audit and recovery Committee were drawn from his office, as well as from relevant agencies that included the 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 Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission, among others.
The AGF said he had in view of the need to provide a comprehensive overview of the process and for proper understanding of the task, held a meeting with Attorneys General of all the 36 states who he noted have similar powers with respect to the collection of stamp duty of Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Financial Institutions in their respective states.
It will be recalled that the 36 states had in their suit at the Supreme Court marked SC/CV/690/2021, insisted that they are legally vested with the authority to administer and collect stamp duties on all transactions involving individuals and persons within their territories, and not FG.
Specifically, the states, are among other things, urging the apex court to determine; “Whether having regard to the provisions of Section 4(2) of the Stamp Duties Act Cap. S8 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria read in conjunction with the provisions of Section 163, items 58 and 59 of the Second Schedule part I and items 7 (a) and (b) of the second Schedule part II and other provisions of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Defendant (Malami) could claim, retain, distribute or in any other manner deal with the monies or sums collected as stamp duties on individual persons transactions within the respective states of the plaintiffs without reference to, concurrence of, input or agreement of the plaintiffs?”
They are praying the Supreme Court to direct FG 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 thereafter till the time of the judgment.
As well as, an order, “directing the defendant to pay over to the Plaintiffs all the sum of monies amounting to One Hundred and Seventy Six Billion, Sixty Seven Million, Four Hundred Thousand Naira (N 176,067,400,000,00) 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 this honourable court or any other sum as the plaintiffs may be found entitled by the honourable court”.