By Salim Yunusa
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, on Thursday disclosed that it has tracked and identified over $20 billion unremitted revenue to companies and solicited the help of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, to recover them.
Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji who disclosed this when he led a delegation to visit the FIRS Executive Chairman, Muhammad Nami in Abuja, said so far the agency has recovered over $3 billion from companies over the years.
Dr. Orji noted that as a member of NEITI board, the FIRS was an important stakeholder in government’s effort to ensure that companies pay to the government the exact revenue in taxes and royalties.
According to him, “FIRS is as important to NEITI as the NNPC, DPR and as the Central Bank of Nigeria who we also have deepened relationship. However, over the years that relationship with FIRS has not been as it should be.
“We recall the FIRS was on our board when Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru was here and it was through the instruments of our reports that she did a lot of reforms which in the last years that you came, you have taken to a very far digital age.
“You have brought a lot of technology into it and then reduce human interference in the work you do. We are very proud of the job you have done. When you reel out the figures that the FIRS has recovered most times they give targets and you meet the targets, we think you can do more if we bring the NEITI/EITI principles into what you do in terms of openness, transparency and accountability that are already in-built in the technology that is now driving tax reports,” he said.
Dr. Orji requested that the FIRS should release data needed for its oil and industry on time, saying that would go a long way in helping NEITI do its job.
He also urged the FIRS boss to set up extractive industries desk that includes the solid minerals sector with expanded capacity to include beneficial ownership and contract transparency.
In his response, the Mr. Nami assured NEITI of FIRS support, saying in the past years cooperation between both organizations has improved greatly.
He noted that even by NEITI’s own assessment, FIRS scored 95 percent in terms of cooperation in the process for the just released NEITI 2019 Oil and Gas Audit report.
He assured that FIRS would support NEITI and ensure that the $20 billion was recovered from the companies, calling on NEITI to make more detailed information available to the Service.
He explained that “FIRS has created a full department named intelligence strategic data mining and analysis department to mine and warehouse data on tax payers for the service.
“We therefore request for your support to build up our data base by sharing with the FIRS data obtained from other stakeholders such as NNPC, DPR, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, oil and gas companies, and solid minerals players, from past and future annual NEITI audit exercise,” he stated.
He observed that the challenges of tax administration in Nigerian cannot be imagined, adding that “we are confronted with Nigerians that want everything from the Nigerian government but do not want to contribute anything in terms of supporting government with taxes or other sources of revenue.”