A bill seeking to grant amnesty for treasury looters has been passed by the Senate and it’s causing a lot of uproar among Nigerians who think it is a way to encourage corrupt practices.
Below are 10 things you should know about this bill according to the International Centre for Investigative Reporters:
1. ORIGINAL TITLE:
Popularly known as ‘Bill for Amnesty for Treasury Looters’, the bill is actually titled ‘A Bill for an Act to establish a Scheme to harness Untaxed Money for Investment Purposes and to assure any Declarant regarding Inquiries and Proceedings under Nigerian Laws and for other matters connected therewith’.
2. ITS ORIGIN:
The bill was proposed by Linus Okorie, member House of Representatives representing Ohaukwu/Ebonyi Federal Constituency of Ebonyi state.It was read in the Green Chamber for the first time on June 14, 2017, and it scaled through the second reading in July.
3. WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEANS:
According to Okorie, the bill “seeks to allow all Nigerians and residents who have any money or assets outside the system or have acquired such money or assets illegally (looted or any variant of the cliché) to come forward, within a set time-frame, to declare same, pay tax/surcharge and compulsorily invest the funds in any sector of the Nigerian economy; and be granted full amnesty from inquiry/prosecution”.
4. TIME FRAME:
The bill is expected to operate for three years from the date of commencement, with the establishment of the Voluntary Taxable income Recovery and Amnesty scheme.
The bill, dubbed ‘Economic Amnesty,’ provides in Section 4, a 30 percent tax and additional surcharge of 25 percent of such tax. While the proposed tax would be remitted to the federation account for distribution to all tiers of government, the surcharge is to be remitted directly to specific agencies towards agricultural and infrastructural development of the nation.
It proposes that 25 per cent of the money will be paid as tax, to be shared by the three tiers of government. Thirty percent of the money will be invested in agriculture, while the rest will be invested in any choice sector of the economy.
It provides in Section 3 (1) that “…any person may make, on or after the date of commencement of this Scheme but before a date to be notified by the Central Bank of Nigeria in an Official Gazette, a declaration in respect of any income chargeable under the income-tax law for any assessment prior to the enactment of this Act.”
Section 3 (2) states that: “Where the income chargeable to tax is declared in the form of investment in any asset, the fair market value of such asset as on the date of commencement of this Scheme shall be deemed to be the undisclosed income for the purposes of sub-section (1).”
6. COMPULSORY INVESTMENT OF ‘STOLEN’ FUNDS:
The bill proposes that “the amount declared from the undisclosed income shall (after payment of the tax, surcharge in respect of the declaration) be invested in Nigeria by the declarant in any sector of the Nigerian economy.”
The proposed law also exempts all declarations made from further assessment/taxation by any tax authority within Nigeria, outside the tax and surcharge provided therein.
In the bill, the Federal Government has powers to make consequential “orders not inconsistent with the Scheme to remove any difficulties” that may arise in the course of implementation.
7. THE BENEFITING GOVT AGENCIES:
The agencies are the National Agricultural Research Development Fund and the Nigerian Infrastructure Fund.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to manage the scheme, while the declaration would be made to the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
9. AMNESTY FOR LOOTERS:
In return, the bill proposes a total and comprehensive amnesty for all declarants from all otherwise repercussions under Nigerian laws and further provides that all such declarations shall be inadmissible in evidence against the declarant except in ‘matters of national security.
Matters of national security are those facts and issues to be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction before effect is given to the exception, the bill says.
Outside the exception on grounds of national security, no declarant shall be required to state the source or sources of the assets or income declared.
10. ‘WORKABLE’ SOLUTION TO CAPITAL FLIGHT:
The lawmaker said the scheme would be a workable solution for reversing capital flight that has bedevilled the Nigerian economy, and initiate a reverse flow through resultant repatriation.
Meanwhile, the controversial bill has been denounced as ‘satanic’ by Hon. Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma, the chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on US/Nigeria Relations.
He stated that if the bill passes into law, it would be retroactive for the country and will encourage corruption.
He noted that separate laws cannot be made for treasury looters when ordinary Nigerians are being jailed for stealing as little as N1000.