Nigeria loses not less than N100b every year in tax related fraud, experts at a conference organised by the country’s leading anti-corruption group said at the weekend.
Speaking at the 25th Anti-corruption Situation Room organised by HEDA Resource Centre held at Sheraton Hotel on Saturday in commemoration of the June 12, 1993 elections won by late Chief MKO Abiola and promises of that election to Nigerians, professionals from different fields said tax manipulation and evasion by individuals and corporate organisations remain one of the most devastating sources of corruption in Nigeria.
In his opening remark, Chairman, HEDA Resource Centre, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju said corruption remains a teething problem in Nigeria with grave consequences on political stability, poverty, lack of jobs, growing wave of violence and extremism urging Nigerians to work in unity to tackle corruption headlong.
Some of the participating groups include but not limited to representatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, (OSIWA), Society for West Africa Internal Auditors Practitioners of Taxation of Nigeria, (CITN), Lagos Chambers of Commerce, Chartered Institute of Loan and Risk Management, (CILRN), Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, (CIS), Justice Development and Peace Commission, (JPDC) of the Catholic Church, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), CACOL among others.
“Corruption cannot be fought effectively unless Nigeria deals with tax fraud. Many individuals and corporate organisations evade or manipulate tax. They do this in collaboration with professionals like accountants and lawyers. Tax remains the only steady source of income. Unless there is a transparent tax regime, more than 100b will be lost by Nigerians every year to tax related fraud,” the participants said in the communique issued at the end of the day long event.
Identified corruption patterns were illicit money transfer, bribery, electoral malpractices, sharp practices by professionals, increasing number of cyber criminals who are arrested everyday with deep concern for commensurate diligence prosecution of the suspects
The participants said corruption remains one of the major obstacles blocking the uplifting of Nigeria to her required status as a great, dignified and prosperous country.
“Corruption affects every citizen, young and old, men and women, physically challenged, children and youths, rich and poor, armed and defenceless people alike” the delegates said in the communique.
They expressed deep concern about how corruption affects women and the girl child across the country either through exclusion, discrimination or sex corruption.
The participants said they recognised the fact that the Nigerian government in the past years has done a lot in the fight against corruption, that such efforts included the implementation of policies like the BVN, Treasury Single Account, trial and conviction of high profile politically exposed persons, and many more.
They noted that the country may not have arrived where she ought to be, but definitely not where she used to be.
However, they said in the communique that despite government efforts and the various anti-graft agencies, corruption remains a major problem confronting the country in all areas, leading to poverty, hunger, lack of jobs, extremism, violence, breakdown of family and societal values and the declining fortunes of Nigeria social, political and economic future.
The conference was in partnership with the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, (PTCIJ), National Orientation Agency (NOA) and AFRICMIL.
“Nigeria has some 30m people with disabilities. There is a link between corruption and disabilities through poor health services like lack of access to efficient anti-natal care, lack of access to balanced diet, bad roads leading to accidents, increasing wave of violence and lack of protective government policies” the communique stated.
In its recommendations, they urged the tiers of Government to enforce an effective tax system, taxation being the only sustainable source of revenue for the government regretting that many actors in the Information Technology sector, multinational companies and many individuals evade tax in Nigeria making tax fraud a big corruption scourge.
The group said in any country where corruption thrives, development, growth, the Income Per Capital and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will diminish adding that there can be no genuine investments where corruption is dominant.
The people and the Government were urged to keep alive hope and the collective determination to defeat corruption in order to bring back Nigeria on a path of glory and renaissance.
“The Presidency should sustain the political will in the fight against corruption while the people should discharge their rights and duties in fighting corruption in all strata through personal acts of discipline, respect for law and defence of the society’s moral heritage all required in the campaign to curtain corruption, promote transparency and accountability’ the group said in the communique
Members of the Federal Executive Council were asked to faithfully embrace the President’s mantra of anti-corruption and transparency while the social units, the family, schools, faith-centres, peers and associations and law enforcement agencies should commit themselves to the campaign against corruption.
The participants said fighting corruption effectively requires assets tracing, recovery and disposal which should be efficiently executed by the Federal Government with sincerity, transparency and accountability noting that the sub national actors have strategic roles to play in the fight against corruption, hence states and local governments should bring corruption to the front burner in their policy implementations.
The participants said to fight corruption successfully in Nigeria, Professionals; lawyers, Engineers, accountants, auditors, journalists, builders, medical practitioners should discharge their obligations with the highest sense of transparency and accountability while Nigeria should strengthen law enforcement against tax evasion to ensure control and punishment for culprits in private and public sectors including actors in digital economy.
The reports of the Auditor General released annually, according to the communique, should be constructively engaged by the National Assembly while all indicted MDAs should be referred for investigation by the anti-corruption agencies.
The 36 States of the Federation were asked to emulate the example of Kano State by creating independent and effective institutional framework to fight corruption at the grassroots adding that the capacity of investigators in anti-corruption agencies should be further strengthened through effective use of technology.
Public officers were also urged to conform with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) regulations, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
“A robust and free media is necessary in any meaningful anti-corruption campaign. Nigeria as a signatory to various international and regional conventions on freedom of speech should desist from any action that threatens media freedom” the participants said as part of its recommendations.
Resource persons at the conference included Dr Adebukola Adebayo, Chairman, Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities, (JONAPWD), HEDA Resource Centre, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, (PACAC), Prof Isah Sadiq Raddah, Barrister Muhuyi Magaji Chairman, Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi among others. The Chairman of the conference was Prof Sadiq Raddah while key note address was delivered by Mr Femi Falana SAN.
Presentations were made by Prof Isah Sadiq Raddah, Barrister Monday Ubani, Muhuyi Magaji, Representative of EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ahmed Ghali, Lagos Zonal Head of EFCC, Dr Abiola Akiyode Afolabi and Dr. Mustapha Musa representative of the Code of Conduct Chairman, Prof. Isa Muhammad.