Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ibrahim, has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, over plans to cede collection of stamp duty to Federal Inland Revenue Service.
It was also learnt that the Ibrahim has written to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, opposing the plan to remove the Nigerian Postal Service from collection of stamp duty.
Stamp duty had emanated from the requirement that stamps should be affixed on legal documents for authenticity.
However, given dwindling revenues generated by NIPOST, the postal organisation had hired consultants and agents to boost its capacity to raise force compliance with Stamp Duty Act passed by the National Assembly in 2014.
The duty became more conspicuous when in 20016 the Central Bank of Nigeria asked Money Deposit Banks through a circular to deduct N50 stamp duty on every electronic transfer with a value of N1, 000 and above.
Since, then FIRS had been contending that it had the responsibility to collect all duties and finally got the House of Representatives to insert this responsibility in a proposed amendment to the Stamp Duty Act.
One of our correspondents learnt that the communications minister had written both to Buhari and Ahmed to ensure the retention of stamp duty as responsibility of NIPOST.
Although details of the petition to Buhari were still sketchy as of the time filing the story, Ibrahim confirmed his opposition to the plan in an interactive session with journalists in Abuja on Friday.
Ibrahim said it would be ‘injustice’ to transfer stamp duty collection from NIPOST to FIRS.
Insisting that NIPOST should collect the duty on behalf of the Federal Government, he said that he had already reached out to Buhari to state his position on the matter.
He added that he had also made his position known to the finance minister.
The minister said, “To me stamp duty should be collected by NIPOST, the same way the Nigerian Customs Service collect customs duties.
“The FIRS has been working on being the agency that collects stamp duty. It started before my appointment and I only got to know when the situation had deteriorated.
“I intervened by informing Mr President that NIPOST should be the one to collect stamp duty.”
Ibrahim explained that FIRS had summoned a meeting of some stakeholders, without involving the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NIPOST, to deliberate on which agency should collect the revenue.
The stakeholders, who the minister said were working for FIRS’s interests, recommended that the revenue service should be the organisation that collects stamp duty.
He said he would continue to challenge the injustice.
“As far as I am concerned, this is one of the injustices that should be challenged and I will continue to challenge it,” he said.
He dismissed reports that the Federal Government had already decided that FIRS should henceforth collect stamp duty.
Ibrahim said, “It is not true that the Federal Government has decided that the FIRS should collect stamp duty. I have been at the Federal Executive Council and I know that it has not been agreed that FIRS should collect stamp duty.
“The government will decide but we can advise.”
The labour union in NIPOST had protested at the National Assembly, and picketed the Abuja headquarters of the Ministry of Finance over the move to cede the duty collection to the FIRS.
Speaking on his plans for the postal service, Ibrahim said the Federal Government intends to set up a property and development company from the organisation.
The plan is in line with the partial commercialisation of the agency.
Shedding further light on the plan, Ibrahim explained that NIPOST had over 3000 property in strategic locations across the country.
Noting that most of the assets were currently in a dilapidated condition, he said the government would not allow them to waste.
According to him, efforts were being made to reposition NIPOST to generate more revenues for the government.
Similarly, the minister disclosed that the Nigerian Communications Commission had been directed to provide security agencies with the bio-data of any suspect within 60 minutes, whenever a SIM card was used in a criminal activity.
He said that there was no unregistered SIM card in the country since September 25, 2019, following the order issued to the NCC to block all unregistered SIM cards.
The minister argued that the directive on unregistered SIM cards had led to a reduction in cases of kidnapping across the country.
The minister also gave an update on the ongoing probe of spectrum licences awarded in the country by the National Frequency Management Council.
Noting that the move was aimed at ‘validating information’, he disclosed that the agencies involved – the NCC and the National Broadcasting Commission – were complying with the audit.
“One asked for more time and the other one sent a report which needed to be updated and we asked for more details,” he said.
Speaking on efforts to achieve a wider broadband penetration in the country, Ibrahim said efforts were being made to address issues such as vandalism of telecommunications facilities and Right of Way.
He explained that the National Security Adviser had instructed that the telcos should disclose the location of their vital facilities as part of moves towards the designation of telecom infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure.