The current global oil prices decline will discipline Nigeria, a country where naked display of corruption through tax evasion have become commonplace.
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Lamorde, stated this at the ongoing seminar on Tax Crime Investigation and Prosecution Course organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in conjunction with the European Union (EU).
According to him, going by a recent investigation conducted by the EFCC, “only few individuals and institutions pay tax; most businesses don’t pay their tax, people drive N50 million car and you ask them for taxes, they don’t pay. It is good that oil price is going down so that we look elsewhere.”
Lamorde said the anti-graft agency’s recent efforts at addressing tax evasion had paid off, with over N3 billion already recovered.
He noted that EFCC has found out that only “employees in structured salaried employment, whose taxes are deducted from source, pay. Most businesses do not pay tax and where they are recipients of value added tax (VAT), same is not remitted and is laundered back through the business as legitimate earnings. We have also realised from the position of the NFIU that there is a linkage between tax evasion and AML/CFT. Consequently, billions of Naira are lost to the Government of Nigeria and it is possible that these lost revenues could be laundered and used for criminal purposes.
“The power to tax is what defines the sovereignty of a country. It is the key attribute of sovereignty and statehood. Conversely, it is the payment of tax that empowers and legitimises the right of a citizen to ask for accountability of Government. I suspect that if the citizenry were paying taxes, the level of impunity in the political arena would be significantly minimised as the citizen would feel embezzlement personally and demand for accountability,” Lamorde said.
Also speaking, UNODC Project Coordinator on Anti-Corruption, Bala Sanga, said the growing cases of terrorism funding and money laundering have become alarming. He therefore stressed the need to train experts on tax evasion and fraud.
“Chances are that anywhere you see tax evasion, you are going to see money laundering and cases of underlying corruption.”
President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Chief Mark Anthony Dike also said non-tax compliance is capable of derailing Nigeria’s developmental agenda.
“It is quite glaring that the level of tax compliance in Nigeria is abysmally low. This has greatly impeded development as government at all levels in Nigeria have had to contend with paucity of the execution of the plethora of projects begging for attention.
“Our reliance on revenue from oil and other hydro carbon sources has been our bane. Taking a look at the revised Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria recently, the percentage of taxes to GDP is a far cry from what it should be. Therefore, every effort to rein in more taxes and increase compliance is a welcome development,” Dike said.