Reuters

The Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) said it recovered about N3.63 billion by curbing Illicit Financial Flows between January 2017 and August 2018 in the country.

The Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mr Tunde Fowler, said this on Thursday in Abuja at the Inter-Ministerial African Union High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).

Fowler said that the FIRS had made positive strides in curbing IFFs such as illegal tax evasion and abusive transfer mispricing by companies operating in the country.

“Total tax debt recovered from January 2017 to 31st August 2018 is N3.63 billion. From November 2016 to December 2017, we also recovered N1.9 billion,” he said.

Fowler also said that the Service had uncovered 114 companies that claimed that they were not aware of lands worth billions of Naira allocated to them in Abuja.

He said that the FIRS had confirmed from the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS), that the lands were actually allocated to the companies.

He said that the Service would soon hand over the false claims to the Attorney General of the Federation for further action on the controversial lands.

Meanwhile, Mr Thabo Mbeki, the Chairman, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s High Level Panel on IFF, said that Africa was loosing about 80 billion dollars annually through IFFs.

Mbeki, who is also a former South African President, said the huge sums came from proceeds of commercial transactions through multinational companies, criminal activities and corruption.

According to him, illicit financial flow poses developmental challenges on the continent, in terms of draining hard currency reserve, reduced tax collection, deepening income gap, depleting investment and weakening governance.

He harped on the need to strengthen institutions like the Revenue Service Agencies, Customs Services and the legislation, to enable them to tackle better, incidences of money laundering as well as other forms of IFFs.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said that IFFs had robbed Africa of the wealth and resources needed to invest in infrastructure, education, hospitals and electricity, for sustainable and inclusive economic development.

Ahmed was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Mr Mahmoud Isa-Dutse.

She highlighted some of the reforms the government had undertaken, to reduce illicit financial flows in the country.

“The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) initiative, which ended in June 2018, was a tax amnesty programme aimed at raising tax revenues, regularising the tax status of citizens and bringing concealed tax assets into the national tax base.

“Furthermore, the Federal Government is collaborating with several countries in terms of sharing information on Nigerians who own properties and bank accounts abroad.

” We also run a programme for the Automatic Exchange of Tax Information with the United Kingdom.

“In addition, we have signed agreements on the Multilateral Competent Authority on the Common Reporting Standard which is a platform for exchange of financial accounts information.

”This will come into effect as soon as the legal framework is finalised,” she said.

In July 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill into law.

The NFIU was empowered to fight the funding of criminal activities, money laundering and terrorism through the international and domestic financial system.

The Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, said that Nigeria had put in place institutions, legislation and technology expertise to minimise IFFs in the country.

“We established the EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Financial Intelligence Unit, and backed them with laws, to ensure that Nigeria wins the fight against corruption and IFFs.

“We have also deployed technology in this fight. For example, we have deployed BVN in the banking sector, to identify the real owners of bank accounts.

The TSA and the IPPIS were deployed to ensure that Federal Government resources are prudently managed.

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