By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to issue warrant of arrest on any Head of a Ministry, Department and Agency (MDA) of government who failed to appear before any of its Committee for an investigative hearing.
The House Committee equally seeks an amendment of the Company Income Tax Bill 2020 currently awaiting assent of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to with:
Which stated that any company or Persons indicted by National Assembly that fails or refuses to pay or remit statutory revenue returns to the Federal Government through the appropriate quarters should have its Directors criminally prosecuted for violation of our Tax laws, barred from further business operations in the country and the company blacklisted and delisted from the Register of the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Peoples Daily reports that, the House Committee on Finance is presently investigating the non-remittance of funds to the Federation Account by Federal agencies while the Committee on Public Accounts is holding investigative hearing into refusal of MDAs to render their Accounts to the office of the Accountant General of the Federation from 2014 to date.
It’s has been on records that many heads of MDAs refused to appear before these committees after written invitations.
The House resolutions followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by James Faleke (APC, Lagos) and Victor Nwokolo (PDP, Delta).
Presenting the motion tagged “urgent need to authorize the issuance of warrant of arrest against any person or head of organization that fail to appear/honour invitation to investigative hearing before any committee of the House of Representatives” Faleke said that continued dependence on oil revenue to fund the programs and projects of government is not sustainable
He said “House notes the precarious economic situation Nigeria currently finds herself, heightened by the global economic recession driven in part by the coronavirus pandemic, and the unfortunate crash in international oil prices
The Lawmaker further added that “the current price of crude oil in the international market is below $29P/B, approximately 50% down from the budgetary projection of $57P/B.
“Concerned, that the continued dependence on oil revenue to fund the programs and projects of government is not sustainable, and worried that existing corporate tax revenue leakages are hindering the diversification of the nation’s revenue base.
“The House observes huge revenue leakages of over $30Billion attributable to Corporations who systematically evade the remittance of the appropriate taxes, despite public declarations of exhorbitant revenues and profits.
“The House at its sitting of 5th March 2020, acting in line with the provisions of Sections 62, 88 and 89 of the Constitution, empowered, via a resolution, its Committees on Finance, and Banking & Currency, with assistance from other relevant government agencies to conduct in-depth Investigative Hearings into all incidences of corporate tax revenue leakages.
“The sole objective of these investigations by the House is to ensure that Nigeria’s tax regime remains fair and competitive, and expected tax revenue by any organization and or individual is paid appropriately and accordingly into the government Treasury.
“The Committee of Finance and Banking & Currency, in furtherance of its obligations as directed by the House, issued letters of invitation to various corporations to submit documents of their full compliance with the Law’s of the Federation.
The House is amazed that some of these corporations, particularly TELECOMS OPERATORS under the aegis of Incorporated Trustees of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, upon the receipt of the letters of invitation chose instead to file cases in the Court.
“The House notes that a judgment in favour of the National Assembly was delivered on the 13th of March 2020, by Her Lordship, B.F.M. Nyako J, which reiterated that ‘the National Assembly is empowered by sections 88 and 89 of the constitution to invite any persons for investigative purposes’.
However, the TELECOMS OPERATORS under the aegis of Incorporated Trustees of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria have contested the powers of the National Assembly, and have filed an Appeal, seeking an injunction to restrain the National Assembly from: “investigating [their] business, operations and policies, summoning [them], requesting any documents or books from [them], conducting any investigative hearing or meetings against [them], making oversight visits to [their] offices or premises for the purposes of investigating or demanding information…”
Ruling on the motion, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila wonder while Heads of MDAs would not honour summons of the legislature which has the constitutional powers to summon other arms of government.
He also directed the Committee on Finance to issue final summon to the Telecommunications operators to appear before the House relevant Committees within seven days, failure of which warrant of arrest would be issued on them.
The House ,however, vowed to invoke sections 89 (1)(d) & (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended).