On January 29, 2016, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arrested Abumere Joseph Osagie, The Deputy Director, Regional Tax Office, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, in a case of abuse of office and bribery.
The suspect was picked following a complaint about his attempt to extort a university proprietor N5 million.
Osagie and Jamila Ojora had on January 27, 2016 allegedly approached Senator Ahmed Datti, the Chancellor of Baze University, Abuja and gave him a tax assessment of N20,029,496 through a letter of intent, which he paid.
However when he requested for the assessment certificate, they refused to oblige him. Instead they allegedly demanded for N5 million gratification.
All pleas by him fell on deaf ears. Consequently, the Chancellor of the University then petitioned the EFCC, and was advised to play along (Just like in Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola case).
Consequently, a bribed of N5 Million was arranged and marked (to serve a evidence) and was delivered to the director (Osagie) through Ojora in a sting operation (some of you will call this a set-up).
Ojora was arrested after she collected the N5m. His confession later led to the arrest of Osagie.
The houses of the suspects were searched by operatives of the EFCC, and documents were recovered.
As a Tax Consultant, this menace has been in Tax Practice for long and I must commend the effort of the Chancellor for taking up this matter. I enjoin all Tax Payer to emulate him and join in the battle of fighting corruption. I keep-on educating Tax Payer that having additional Tax Liability as a result of Tax Audit or investigation conducted is not a crime and does not mean heaven will fall. There are laid down procedures to address excessive Tax Liabilities. Tax Liability given by tax officer who conduct Tax Audit is not FINAL and CONCLUSIVE. The process can be taken away from them and handled with another bodies for intervention (just like you have hierarchy of court, to further your case if not satisfied with decision of lower court).
But because TaxPayers in Nigeria does not know their right, overzealous Tax Officials, while sitting at his desk can use the Letter Head of his office and send out harrassment letters to Tax Payers with the sole aim of scaring them with tax issues and at the end of the story the case will be settled via bribe. This is gross abuse of office. No matter how you present documentations to defend your position, the corrupt tax officers will still use the MIGHT of their office to insist that their findings is FINAL and CONCLUSIVE. The experience in Lagos state is more of concern. Lagos state will go to the back-door to obtain Ex-Parte order to lock down your office with the intention to force you to come to their office and do a gentleman’s negotiation (Bribe).
Over the years, Tax Officers has been in total control of Tax Practice, you find them acting also as Tax Consultant and/or Tax Practitioners while still in the employment of FIRS. Some even act as Auditor by preparing Audited Account right in their office. They do this by picking a copy of Audited Accounts already filed with them by a Chartered Accountants and merely change the Name of the Company and other unwanted information. The consequence of this is that the Chartered Accountants are left with no jobs to do and if they have at all, they will be at the mercy of Tax Officers who controls every aspect of Tax Practice.
The former FIRS Chairperson, Mrs Ifueko Omogui-Okauru introduce some reforms to address this issue and equally increase the salaries of the Tax Officers and other work conditions. During her tenure, I as a Tax Consultant experience huge sanity in the system. Collection of TAX CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE was never an herculean task. The closest FIRS chairman that emulated Omogui philosophy was Samual Ogungbesan who merely acted in Acting capacity before handing over to the present FIRS Chairman Tunde Fowler.
My conclusion is that, all Tax Payers should stand up for their right, they should ensure they pay legitimate taxes and ready to to fight the CORRUPTION aspect of the system (just like the Chancellor did in the case above). Together, we can help the present administration in the fight against corruption by doing our part such as saying NO to paying bribes and accept to do the RIGHT THING at all times.
Tax system is never meant to be used as a weapon to oppress and enrich the few, it is meant to manage the income inequality and source of revenue to Government, therefore Tax System should wear HUMAN FACE. In this era of relying on taxes to fund Government’s budget amidst corrupt tax officers, Tax Payer should expect though times and be ready to do what the Chancellor has done per above in order to survive the corruption in the Tax System.