Tax related frauds cost Nigeria hefty losses of over N100billion every year, participants in an anti-corruption conference in Abuja have said.
The conference was part of the 25th Anti-corruption Situation Room organised by Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resources Centre) on Saturday to commemorate the June 12, 1993 elections.
Some of the participating groups include but not limited to representatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, (OSIWA), Society for West Africa Internal Auditors Practitioners of Taxation of Nigeria, (CITN), Lagos Chambers of Commerce, Chartered Institute of Loan and Risk Management, (CILRN), Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, (CIS), Justice Development and Peace Commission (JPDC) of the Catholic Church, and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The conference was in partnership with the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, (PTCIJ), National Orientation Agency (NOA) and AFRICMIL.
The group blamed the losses to tax manipulations and evasions by individuals and corporate organisations, which it said “remain some of the most devastating sources of corruption in Nigeria.”
Chairman, HEDA Resource Centre, Olanrewaju Suraju, said corruption in Nigeria has grave consequences on political stability, poverty, lack of jobs, growing wave of violence and extremism.
He urges Nigerians to work together in unity to tackle corruption head-long.
“Corruption cannot be fought effectively unless Nigeria deals with tax fraud. Many individuals and corporate organisations evade or manipulate tax.
“They do this in collaboration with professionals like accountants and lawyers. Tax remains the only steady source of income. Unless there is a transparent tax regime, more than N100billion will be lost by Nigerians every year to tax related fraud,” the participants said in the communique. Corruption patterns adopted by perpetrators, the group said, include illicit money transfer, bribery, electoral malpractices, sharp practices by professionals, increasing number of cyber criminals who are arrested everyday, with deep concerns for diligent prosecution of the suspects by anti-graft agencies.
The participants said corruption remains one of the major obstacles ro efforts to uplift Nigeria to her required status as a great, dignified and prosperous country.
“Corruption affects every citizen, young and old, men and women, physically challenged, children and youths, rich and poor, armed and defenceless people alike,” the communique said.
Also, they expressed deep concern about how corruption affects women and the girl-child across the country either through exclusion, discrimination or sex-corruption.
Noting that the Nigerian government in the past years has done a lot in the fight against corruption, participants said such efforts have failed to curb the menace.
Some of the anti-corruption policies by the government include the biometric verification number (BVN) , Treasury Single Account (TSA), trial and conviction of high profile politically exposed persons, and others.
“Despite government efforts and the various anti-graft agencies, corruption remains a major problem confronting the country in all areas, leading to poverty, hunger, lack of jobs, extremism, violence, breakdown of family and societal values and the declining fortunes of Nigeria social, political and economic future”, participants said.
“Nigeria has some 30million people with disabilities. There is a link between corruption and disabilities through poor health services, like lack of access to efficient anti-natal care, lack of access to balanced diet, bad roads leading to accidents, increasing wave of violence and lack of protective government policies” the communique stated.
The group urged the three tiers of government to enforce an effective tax system, acknowledging taxation as the only sustainable source of revenue for the government. Participants expressed regrets that many actors in the Information Technology sector, multinational companies and many individuals evade tax in Nigeria, making tax fraud a big corruption scourge.
“In any country where corruption thrives, development, growth, the par capita income and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will diminish, while there will be no genuine investments where corruption is dominant.
“The people and the government must keep hope alive and the collective determination to defeat corruption in order to bring back Nigeria on a path of glory and renaissance.
“The Presidency should sustain the political will in the fight against corruption, while the people should discharge their rights and duties in fighting corruption in all strata through personal acts of discipline, respect for rule of law and defence of the society’s moral heritage required in the campaign to curtain corruption, promote transparency and accountability.
Other recommendations include that
members of the Executive Council of the Federation should faithfully embrace the President’s mantra of anti-corruption and transparency while the social units, the family, schools, faith-centres, peers and associations and law enforcement agencies should commit themselves to the campaign against corruption.
Also, fighting corruption effectively requires assets tracing, recovery and disposal which should be efficiently executed by the Federal Government with sincerity, transparency and accountability noting that the sub national actors have strategic roles to play in the fight against corruption, hence states and local governments should bring corruption to the front burner in their policy implementations.
“The fight against corruption will be successful in Nigeria with professionals, lawyers, engineers, accountants, auditors, journalists, builders, medical practitioners s
discharging their obligations with the highest sense of transparency and accountability, while Nigeria should strengthen law enforcement against tax evasion to ensure control and punishment for culprits in private and public sectors, including actors in digital economy.