BY CHUKS NNOCHIRI in Abuja•
Determined to improve her revenue and boost the economy without relying on oil money alone, Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved N1.5 billion to drive projected $1 billion tax revenue within nine months.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who disclosed while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Wednesday’s weekly FEC meeting, said the N1.5 billion is meant to run advertisement campaigns intended to promote Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
VAIDS, according to the Ministry of Finance, is a platform designed to provide taxpayers with the opportunity to regularise their tax payments in relation to their previous payments.
The Minister, who said so far, the scheme had helped the federal government to generate $110 million revenue from only two companies, said from the responses received so far, there are expectations that the $1 billion tax revenue target might be exceeded.
“On the amount expected, we projected $1 billion and we have already gotten $110 million and that is just from two companies. So, we feel we might exceed that target,” she said.
She said that 500 letters had so far been sent out to 500 persons following information obtained about their assets through the bank verification number (BVN), land registry, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The minister who said thousands others are being targeted through the scheme, added that the responses to the 500 letters sent out so far had been encouraging, pointing out that the output of the scheme will stabilise Nigerian revenue irrespective of what the price of oil may be in future.
“On the criteria adopted to get the first 500, what we have done is we got information on land registry details from the state governments and the FCT. We got information from the BVN, registration from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and we began to match them.
“From that, we could see the linkages. So, if someone lives in Lagos and has properties in Kaduna, London et cet era, but only declaring part, with this information, we ‘ll get them. We also look at people who had come out in the Panama and Paradise papers. We look at people who have companies being paid by the government but are not paying the right taxes.
“Even if you have not gotten a letter yet, do not think we have forgotten you. These are just the first 500. Others will soon follow. It does not mean that we do not have you in our radar. For now, we are looking for the high risk people,” she explained.
On the proposed advertisement campaigns, Adeosun said FEC approval yesterday was for the fallout of the memorandum she presented to drive VAIDS advertisement campaign for nine months, explaining that the campaigns would be run on print and electronic media as well as the online platforms.
“I presented a memo on the Voluntary Assets Income Declaration Scheme for approval of the sum of N1.5 billion to cover advertising campaign for nine months on Radio, TV, online, newspapers including center spread. I also briefed FEC on the progress under the tax amnesty and it has been very well received.
“We have people who are ready to declare and pay. We sent out over 500 letters under the first batch, but there are thousands of Nigerians being targeted but the first 500 letters have gone out.
“We have started to get responses back and many people are asking for time to pay. Most of the governors have agreed to give more time for people to make arrangements for payments.
“This is indeed very good news for Nigeria as it will help reduce over reliance on oil. It will improve our tax revenue so that whether oil prices are high or low, we will be able to provide basic services for our people.
“Very high net worth people are now being brought into the tax revenue profile. We hope to exceed the target that has been set,” she stated
Furthermore, the minister said governors had been contacted to assist in making the scheme effective, observing that some personal income taxes find their ways into state government accounts.
“We met the governors just two days ago and they all agreed because personal income taxes are also going to the state government coffers. They also agreed to accommodate those who agree they owe but haven’t got the cash to pay. “Somebody might have the house but may not have the cash. Let’s give them chances to bring this money because this money is sustainable money and we have asked that they give them time to bring in this money and they have agreed to do so. From now on, they are ready to pay their right taxes,” she further explained.
Adeosun also disclosed that the sum of N421.3 million had been approved for payment of commission to whistle-blowers in the month of November.
According to her, only whistle blowers who signed the required agreement will be paid, adding that the tax had been deducted from the sum ahead of payment.
“The total amount, which also includes that of Osborne Road, Ikoyi, is N421,330,595 and this is for the November batch and it is ready for payment. The only condition necessary is that the money will be paid to the whistleblower who signed the agreement, not to any company.
Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, said FEC had also approved N1.712 billion for payment to the contractor who has managed the 75 kilometre Gurara dam pipeline project in the FCT for nine years .
According to him, the sum would be shared by the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory on 50:50 ratio.
“He (the contractor) has been maintaining the pipeline in the last nine years without any compensation and as part of our policy to tidy up loose ends pertaining to ongoing projects or completed projects, we decided to disengage the contractor to pay him off for his services and to take over full control of the pipeline.
“So, we negotiated with the contractor for a fee to be paid to him for the service he rendered over the last nine years and we agreed that this money will be shared 50:50 between the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory.
“So, the total amount is N1.712 billion over the course of nine years and the Ministry of Water Resources will pay 50 per cent of that and the Federal Capital Territory will pay the remaining 50 per cent and we all have made provisions for this money under the 2017 budget,” Adamu emphasised