Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, has hinted that the falling of global oil prices are expected to discipline Nigerians on corruption and impact of tax evasion.
Lamorde made the statement at the opening session of the Tax Crime Investigation and Prosecution Course seminar organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in conjunction with the European Union (EU).
Lamorde further stated that going by a recent investigation conducted by the EFCC, “only few individuals and institutions pay tax. Most businesses do not pay their taxes. People drive N50 million cars and you ask them for taxes, they do not pay. It is good that oil price is going down so that we can look elsewhere.”
Lamorde said EFCC’s effort in confronting tax evasion “led to an immediate recovery of over N3 billion.
Our experience was very revealing, as only a very few individuals and institutions pay tax.”
He revealed that employees in structured salaried employment, whose taxes are deducted from source pay their taxes, while most businesses do not pay tax and where they are recipients of value added tax (VAT), same is not remitted or is laundered back through the business as legitimate earnings.
“We have also realised from the position of the NFIU that there is a link between tax evasion and AML/CFT. Consequently, billions of naira are lost by 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 overnment. 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.
Speaking also, UNODC Project Coordinator on Anti-Corruption, Bala Sanga, said the growing cases of terrorism funding and money laundering have become alarming that the need to train experts on tax evasion and fraud has risen.
Sanga told journalists that “chances are that anywhere you see tax evasion, you are going to see money laundering and cases of underlying corruption.”
He said though the UNODC does not meddle in the internal affairs of countries, it is concerned with the rise in crimes such as tax evasion, terrorism funding and money laundering.
Sanga stated that the training will afford UNODC an opportunity “to tutor law enforcement and anti-corrruption agencies on intelligence led procedures for investigating corruption.”
President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Chief Mark Anthony Dike, maintained that non-tax compliance will impede Nigeria’s development.
“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 hydrocarbon 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.”