Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) says the Federal Government is yet to recover stamp duty funds made from January 15, 2016, to June 30, 2020.
Last week, the 36 states through their attorneys-general, sued the AGF over the alleged failure of the government to remit funds generated from stamp duties into state accounts.
The stamp duty saga is coming amid conflict between some states and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) over the collection of value-added tax (VAT).
In the suit filed before the supreme court on August 24 and marked SC/CV/690/2021, the state attorneys are arguing that they are “the sole authority to administer and collect stamp duties on all transactions involving individuals/persons within their respective states.”
They also want the court to order FG to pay “all the sum of monies amounting N176,067,400,000 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.”
However, in a statement on Wednesday, Umar Gwandu, Malami’s spokesperson, said the AGF has written to all 36 state governors.
According to the statement, the letters were written pursuant to the provision of Section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act which provides that “all duties, fines, penalties and debts due to the government of the federation imposed by this Act shall be recoverable in a summary manner in the name of the Attorney-General of the Federation or the state”.
Gwandu said what the AGF did was to “activate those powers, conduct the audit and recovery of back years stamp duty in collaboration with stakeholders.”
“The recoveries are being conducted for the federal ministries, departments, agencies and financial institutions. At this stage, liabilities are being established, and no actual recovery has been made,” Gwandu said.
“The federal government has set up an inter-ministerial committee on audit and recovery of back years stamp duties from January 15, 2016, to June 30, 2020,” the statement read.
“Members of the committee were drawn from office of the AGF in collaboration with relevant agencies including the office of the secretary to the government of the federation, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), office of the accountant-general of the federation, ministry of finance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission, among others.”
In the letter to the governors, Malami was quoted to have said: “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 the 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.”
While conceding that the states have similar powers with the AGF with respect of stamp duty of ministries, departments, agencies and financial institutions in their respective states, the statement also stated that the AGF organized a meeting with state attorneys “in view of the need to provide a comprehensive overview of the process and to proper understanding the task.”