The constitutional role of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) does not extend beyond monitoring of revenue accruals and disbursements of funds from the Federation Account, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has clarified.
Making the clarification on Tuesday in Abuja at the public hearing and review on the Finance Act 2021, the Minister said the powers of the Commission as constitutionally stated do not relate to the collection of revenue.
The clarification became necessary following what seemed like a disagreement between the Chairman of the Commission, Elias Mbam, on what the roles of the agency were compared with those of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Mbam had raised objections to some provisions of the Finance Act 2021 proposing amendments to the FIRS Establishment Act making the tax service the primary agency of the Federal Government responsible for the administration, assessment, collection, accounting, and enforcement of taxes and levies due to the Federation and the Federal Government or any of its agencies.
The Chairman of RMAFC had argued that this provision would “infringe on the Commission’s constitutional mandate of monitoring accruals to and disbursement of revenues from the Federation Account as well as revenue payable into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.”
Besides, he said the proposed amendment would “foreclose or prevent RMAFC from monitoring tax revenues from FIRS.”
But responding to observations and recommendations to the Finance Act by the Commission on Tuesday before the Senate Committees on Finance, Custom, Excise & Tariff, and Trade and Investment, the Minister highlighted the provisions of the Constitution of the roles of the Commission.
“The functions of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission as provided under Paragraph 32 (a-e) of Part 1 to the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is limited to the monitoring of the accruals to and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account.
“The commission is also empowered to advise the Federal and State Governments on fiscal efficiency. There is no constitutional role provided to the RMAFC to collect revenues,” the Minister said.
She said, the Federal Government, through the provisions of the Finance Act 2021, is only further empowering the FIRS to do what the law has mandated it to do, as its constitutional role.
In his presentation, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Muhammad Nami, supported the Minister’s position, adding that the mandate of the RMAFC was not exclusive, as the Budget Office, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
He said while the Auditor General of the Federation, among others, has concurrent mandates to monitor, account for and audit revenues, only the FIRS has a sole mandate to collect and administer tax in Nigeria.
Citing the provisions of Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution, Nami said the Federal Government was to maintain the Federation Account to be funded by four agencies of Government, namely FIRS, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Department of Petroleum Resources, and the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited.
“What the Executive Council Federation and the RMAFC do with the money that four of us collect is not an issue for us, because we do not have the responsibility to directly monitor the disbursement of what we have collected.
“We are not aware of any provision that mandates the RMAFC to make daily, monthly, or annual returns to the Federation Account.
“Section 80 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also talks about maintaining a consolidated revenue account or fund.
“I want to remind us that RMAFC’s mandate remains monitoring revenue, particularly the operating surplus of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies because RMAFC, to the best of our understanding, is not a revenue-generating unit.
“The RMAFC Act Cap 17 LFN 2004 empowers them to demand and obtain regular and relevant information from NNPC, Nigeria Customs, FIRS, CBN, and Federal Ministry of Finance.
“But that provision has not mandated RMAFC to take over the roles of any or all of these agencies and the Federal Ministry of Finance. Monitoring is not the same as collecting and administering,” he said.