The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, recently said the federal government had restored to the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) the responsibility to collect stamp duty in place of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
He made the disclosure at the launch of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary Commemorative Postage Stamps held at the Digital Economy Complex, Abuja.
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“NIPOST has been recognised as a government agency with statutory and historical authority to be the producer of stamps and recognised for collection of stamp duties for validation of financial transactions in the country,” he said.
However, the FIRS responded just as immediately, calling the report fake news. It argued that the Finance Act 2020 had made it the sole agency of government charged with the responsibility of assessing, collecting, and accounting for all tax types including stamp duties.
“NIPOST would henceforth produce the adhesive stamps required by FIRS to denote Stamp Duties in line with the Finance Act 2020),” FIRS said.
However, NIPOST disputed the claim saying, “In spite of amendment to the Finance Act, it has not affected the responsibility of NIPOST.” It went further to allege that “FIRS is now selling stamps instead of buying from us, it did not only steal our stamps but also our ideas …our documents, patent and sneaked everything into the finance bill and tactically removed the name of NIPOST.”
This means we are set for muddle again in the NIPOST/ FIRS saga.
While the war of words rages, it emerged that the two agencies have been engaged in the collection of stamp duties simultaneously.
The FIRS collected N18 billion stamp duties in 2019 and N66 billion in the first half of 2020, according to the Executive Chairman, Muhammad Nami.
NIPOST on the other hand said it domiciled the stamp duty proceeds it collected in the Central Bank of Nigeria.
At stake is over N463.9bn projected revenue from stamp duties every year. It is in an effort to control this that NIPOST and the FIRS often times come unhinged as they attack each other in a disgraceful public spat and this has been on for about two years now. In the process, they deploy unedifying language and assault the public ear in series of tweets and press statements. Nigerians are confronted with undignified remarks such as ‘vexed … tweet, indecorous tweet, ill-advised tweet, preposterous claim and finally ‘fake news’ while referring to a remark by a cabinet minister.
This has been allowed to go on unchecked like there is no government in place. They have taken a path, which is capable of eroding public confidence in the ability of the government to run the affairs of the nation. The country has been distracted long enough. Valuable time and resources have been lost to unremitting media war. For two agencies of government that are answerable to the same boss to be at each other’s throat for so long is embarrassing and unacceptable.
Time has come for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of Service, the two top officers of the government, to take more than a passing interest in the matter in order to restore discipline and order in the conduct of public affairs. The first step is to order the two agencies to stop further public comment on the subject matter and allow the government to make a final pronouncement.
The argument regarding who has the right to collect stamp duty has been stretched to the limit. What is needed now is a dispassionate review of the situation in order to settle the matter once and for all.
The SGF and the Head of Service are no strangers to what action is required to settle inter-agency disputes. They should, therefore, go ahead and activate the appropriate mechanism to deal with the situation.
Policy experts have warned that worse than making a bad decision is not to make a decision at all.
Now is the moment for decision. The mark of a dynamic leadership is the ability to create momentum and pace. President Buhari should pull the plug because the buck stops on his table.