The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has alleged that a cartel colluded with some staff of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) to embezzle money realized from Stamp Duty.
He made the claim on Tuesday in a statement to respond to the challenge thrown at him by a member of the House of Representatives, Muhammadu Gudaji Kazaure, who alleged that N89 trillion collected as Stamp Duty has gone missing.
The lawmaker had also said that President Muhammadu Buhari constituted a committee with him as secretary to recover the missing fund.
But in the statement he issued, the presidential aide noted that Buhari disbanded the committee because of lack of progress in its assignment.
He said that on assumption of office in 2015, the President had noticed an anomaly in the law which mandates the collection of a token on banking transactions and attempted to rectify it.
However, he said, the cartel that had been prevented from stealing the collection came back in the form of consultants to recover the Stamp Duty.
Shehu said: “This anomaly arose because certain characters apparently formed a cartel with collaborators in the Nigerian Postal Service, NIPOST and were allegedly collecting and pocketing this money.
“Soon after, a non-government organization posited to the administration that the Nigerian government had lost the sum of over N20 trillion to the Nigerian Inter-bank Settlement System ((NIBSS) between 2013-2016 in this regard, claiming that the said sum could be recovered and paid back into the government coffers.
“The consultants asked to be paid a professional fee of 7.5 per cent and were placed under the supervision of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF.
“Following the lack of progress in the promised recovery, the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari wrote on March 8, 2018, to the SGF conveying a presidential directive that following the lack of progress and several expressed concerns received, the activities of the consultants be discontinued.
In the aftermath of this dismissal, the consultants sued the government.
“A court of competent jurisdiction subsequently ruled in favour of the government.
“Arising from the outcome of the litigation and the well known controversy on the legally responsible agent for collecting this levy, the administration went to the National Assembly and caused an amendment to the law and removed NIPOST from the duty of its collection.
“Having lost a potentially ‘lucrative’ line of ‘business,’ the sacked characters returned to the drawing board to formulate one form of trick or another to intimidate the government but the vigilant teams of the administration kept them at bay.
Lately, they returned to the government through Hon. Muhammadu Gudaji Kazaure with a plan to track the so-called lot stamp duties with the erstwhile consultant as chairman and Hon. Gudaji as secretary.
“When it emerged that the petitioner and lead consultant of the committee the President had dissolved via the late Abba Kyari’s letter of March 28 had masqueraded himself and re-emerged as the chairman of the new recovery committee championed by the Hon. Gudaji, the President rescinded the approval he gave and asked that it be stopped from operating under the seal of his office.
“In addition to this committee being chaired by a petitioner, there were also other concerns relating to natural justice and fair hearing in having the Chief Justice of the Federation as a committee member and a serving member of the House of Representatives as Secretary, which are not in line with Section 5(1),(a)&(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“Once the President rescinded his approval to constitute this Committee, it lost all legitimacy.
“Arguments have in recent days been flying left and right over the rightfulness of a committee being dissolved.
“People are entitled to hold opinions. But these opinions do not change the fact that under our constitution, the power of the president to appoint and remove persons or groups is duly entrenched and unless such powers are shared with the Parliament, the President can hire and fire literally at will, and in line with the law.
“To go back to the main issue though, it is now evident that the consultants and petitioners’ claims of a missing N89 trillion from stamp duty appear false and a figment of their malicious imaginations.
“The same set of consultants claimed in 2016 there was N20 trillion to be collected. It was found to be false. The entire banking sector deposit is not even up to half of N89 trillion.
“Indeed, if the Federal Government can find N89 trillion Naira, it can pay off all its debt, both foreign and local currency and all state government debts and still have over N10 trillion left.
So, the claim by these so-called consultants and the disbanded committee is totally ridiculous and a complete mockery.”
Shehu remarked that “Hon Gudaji has tried to draw me into a public debate which I don’t consider a good idea.
“In a video clip in Hausa and a press release in English both by this good friend of the administration, Hon. Gudaji Kazaure, invited me to answer questions, some of which are completely lacking in imagination.
“I would have ignored the allegations therein. Yet, a wise man once said that a lie can travel the world while the truth is still wearing his shoes.”
The presidential aide, therefore, debunked each of the claims made by the Jigawa State lawmaker.
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