The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on have restated their commitment to partner towards deepening transparency and accountability in the extractive industries in Nigeria.
recover potential government revenues disclosed in the NEITI audit reports of the oil, gas and solid minerals sectors in Nigeria.
The two agencies made the commitment when the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji visited the FIRS Chairman, Muhammad Nami in his office in Abuja.
During the visit, Orji noted the benefits of the close collaboration NEITI used to enjoy with the FIRS in the past, but expressed regrets that the situation has not been the same today.
He stressed the need for the restoration of the collaboration beginning with FIRS returning as a member of the NEITI Board.
Such collaboration, he said, would enable the two agencies exchange data and information in the implementation of the remedial issues highlighted in the NEITI industry audit reports, especially in the recovery of all outstanding government revenues from the extractive sector.
“We have been cooperating with the FIRS to jointly recover potential government revenues and all other outstanding payments by extractive industry companies due to under- declaration and computation of taxes, as exposed in NEITI audit reports.
“This has become urgent considering the growing pressure on government resources, in the face of dwindling revenue generation. We need to get these funds back into government coffers”, Orji said.
The NEITI boss another area of cooperation with FIRS was the timely provision of the receipts and certificates of tax returns by the extractive companies, which NEITI usually uses in reconciling and validating the data and information submitted by the companies during its reconciliation exercise.
This, he said, would make the data reconciliation and validation process by NEITI with the covered entities easier, professional and credible.
He noted the introduction of technology into the operations of the FIRS and reduction of human interference.
Orji said FIRS could do more with the collaboration to adopt NEITI/EITI operating standards in its activities, in terms of openness, transparency and accountability, which are principles already inbuilt in the technology now driving the FIRS operations.
While commending FIRS for widening the tax net, NEITI Executive Secretary urged the FIRS to address the issue of multiple Tax Identification Numbers in the data base of the Mining Cadastre Office (MCO), review relevant taxes and their computations, and systematically disclose information on the FIRS website.
“There is no doubt that the timely sharing of information and data between NEITI and the FIRS will improve transparency and accountability, resulting in the deepening and strengthening of the relationship that already existed between the two agencies.
He urged FIRS to establish and strengthen the Extractive Industries Desk, particularly on oil and gas sector, and expanded to cover the Solid Minerals Sector, to cover such issues as beneficial ownership disclosures, contract transparency, environment and other areas that involve tax.
The FIRS Chairman applauded the federal government for appointing FIRS into the Board of NEITI.
“FIRS has the responsibility of assessing and collecting taxes both from individuals and corporate entities doing businesses in Nigeria. We are therefore critical stakeholders to NEITI. As a member of the governing Board of NEITI, we assure you of our readiness to recover the over $20billion outstanding funds by jointly working out the modalities”, Nami said.
FIRS, he noted, has always cooperated with NEITI in the conduct of her annual audits, which showed in the ranking of about 95 percent in terms of compliance assessment of all agencies and companies involved in the NEITI audit process.
“We want to improve on this record. To be able to discharge our mandate, we have repositioned the Service by initiating several reforms and introducing technology to ease our operations, to cater for the digital changing landscape of our taxpayers business environment.
“We will work together to also develop the FIRS data base on covered entities. This will smoothen our partnership efforts”, Nami stated.
The FIRS is one of the 15 members on the Governing Board of NEITI recently reconstituted by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nami announced the creation of a full department called Intelligence, Strategic Data Mining and Analysis Department, to mine and harvest data on taxpayers from the Service.
He requested NEITI to support in building up the data base, by sharing with FIRS data obtained from other stakeholders like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) , Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Oil and Gas companies and players in the solid minerals sector from the previous and future NEITI audit exercises.
He lamented the challenges of tax administration in Nigeria, including companies and government agencies
who collect taxes on behalf of the government and refuse to remit same to the government coffers.
“The challenge that agencies like the FIRS face when it wants to recover those monies. They spend a lot of the money to criminally sponsor a lot of negative campaigns against the government and agencies that attempt to recover the money.
“Nigeria is the largest and most populous country, with the largest economy in Africa. Yet the government always realizes the lowest revenue to fund budgetary requirements.
” I believe the collaboration with NEITI will ensure transparency and accountability in tax administration,” he said.