*Steal, declare and be forgiven of your loot
Nigerian treasury looters will be celebrating the law that will guarantee them amnesty, protect their loot while they live in opulence courtesy of Hon Linus Okorie, member House of Representatives representing Ohaukwu/Ebonyi Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State.
Okorie as sponsor a bill he proposed on the floor of the Green Chamber on amnesty for treasury looters, which many Nigerians, including civil society groups, are currently waging war against.
This contemptuous bill has naturally drawn pressure on Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, to halt all legislative actions on the vexatious bill.
In the court of public opinion, the bill is seen as an attempt to shield Nigerians who stole or are planning to steal public funds from probe and prosecution, provided such money is brought back and invested in the economy.
This bill according to it critics would encourage more looting and remove deterrence to political and economic criminality. The bill may be a good news for treasury looters, but Nigerians are saying it is “immoral, ungodly, anti-people and scandalous.”
So, what’s with the amnesty bill for treasury looters that Nigerians are so annoyed? Here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about the controversial bill:
THE TITLE: Although it is known as ‘Bill for Amnesty for Treasury Looters, it is actually titled ‘A Bill For An Act To Establish A Scheme To Harness Untaxed Money for Investment Purposes And To Assure Any Declarant Regarding Inquiries And Proceedings Under Nigerian Laws And For Other Matters Connected Therewith’.
GENESIS: The bill was read in the Green Chamber for the first time on 14th June, 2017, and it scaled through the second reading in July.
SPONSOR: The sponsor of the bill is Linus Okorie, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ebonyi State
EXPLANATION: According to Okorie, the bill “seeks to allow all Nigerians and residents who have any money or assets outside the system or have acquired such money or assets illegally (looted or any variant of the cliché) to come forward, within a set time-frame, to declare same, pay tax/surcharge and compulsorily invest the funds in any sector of the Nigerian economy; and be granted full amnesty from inquiry/prosecution”.
SHELF LIFE: It is expected to operate for three years from the date of commencement, with the establishment of the Voluntary Taxable income Recovery and Amnesty scheme.
PROPOSITION: The bill, dubbed ‘Economic Amnesty,’ provides in Section 4, a 30% tax and additional surcharge of 25% of such tax. While the proposed tax would be remitted to the federation account for distribution to all tiers of government, the surcharge is to be remitted directly to specific agencies towards agricultural and infrastructural development of the nation.
It proposes that 25% of the money will be paid as tax, to be shared by the three tiers of government. 30% of the money will be invested in agriculture, while the rest will be invested in any choice sector of the economy.
It provides in Section 3 (1) that “…any person may make, on or after the date of commencement of this Scheme but before a date to be notified by the Central Bank of Nigeria in an Official Gazette, a declaration in respect of any income chargeable under the income-tax law for any assessment prior to the enactment of this Act.”
Section 3 (2) states that: “Where the income chargeable to tax is declared in the form of investment in any asset, the fair market value of such asset as on the date of commencement of this Scheme shall be deemed to be the undisclosed income for the purposes of sub-section (1).”
COMPULSORY INVESTMENT OF ‘STOLEN’ FUNDS: In Section 5, the bill proposes that “the amount declared from the undisclosed income shall (after payment of the tax, surcharge in respect of the declaration) be invested in Nigeria by the declarant in any sector of the Nigerian economy.”
The proposed law also exempts all declarations made from further assessment/taxation by any tax authority within Nigeria, outside the tax and surcharge provided therein.
In the bill, the Federal Government has powers to make consequential “orders not inconsistent with the Scheme to remove any difficulties” that may arise in the course of implementation.
THE BENEFITING GOVT AGENCIES: The agencies are the National Agricultural Research Development Fund and the Nigerian Infrastructure Fund.
CBN IS THE MANAGER: The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to manage the scheme, while the declaration would be made to the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
AMNESTY FOR LOOTERS: In return, the bill proposes a total and comprehensive amnesty for all declarants from all otherwise repercussions under Nigerian laws and further provides that all such declarations shall be inadmissible in evidence against the declarant except in ‘matters of national security.
Matters of national security are those facts and issues to be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction before effect is given to the exception, the bill says.
Outside the exception on grounds of national security, no declarant shall be required to state the source or sources of the assets or income declared.
‘WORKABLE’ SOLUTION TO CAPITAL FLIGHT: The lawmaker said the scheme would be a workable solution for reversing capital flight that has bedevilled the Nigerian economy, and initiate a reverse flow through resultant repatriation.