Looters of Nigerian treasury may get “full and complete
amnesty” based on a proposed law currently being considered by the House
of Representatives.

The proposed law seeks to give the looters leeway to escape any form
of probe, inquiry or prosecution after fulfilling certain conditions.

Besides, such looters shall not be compelled by any authority to
disclose the source of their looted funds. The scheme is to last for
three years, but it could be extended at the instance of the Federal
Government, the bill provides.

The proposed law is 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.’

The bill was introduced and read for the first time on June 14 on the
floor of the House. It now awaits second reading where it would be
debated.

Sponsor of the bill, Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi), said 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 cliche) 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 or prosecution.”

The draft law covers all assets whether held in Nigeria or outside the country.

The bill, dubbed ‘Economic Amnesty,’ provides in Section 4 a 30
percent tax and additional surcharge of 25 percent 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, the lawmaker had said.

The agencies are the National Agricultural Research Development Fund and the Nigerian Infrastructure Fund.

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).

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.

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).”

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.”

“Being an interventionist Scheme, the bill proposes a time-frame of
three years for the commencement of its implementation unless extended
by the Executive, through CBN.

“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,”
the lawmaker said.

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,” the lawmaker said.

He said the bill was “proposed as a practical, though temporary,
solution to a national cankerworm – corruption – which has afflicted all
generations of our society, since independence and force us
continuously down the development pyramid.

“It provides a window to the quagmire facing all repentant (past and
present) actors, who may have assets and resources within and outside
Nigeria and find it difficult to acquit themselves under extant
anti-corruption and related criminal laws of the land,” he said.

Additionally, the lawmaker said the scheme would be a workable
solution to reverse capital flight that has bedevilled the Nigerian
economy and initiate a reverse flow through resultant repatriation.

“It is estimated that with the quantum of resources envisaged to be
declared and invested in the Nigerian economy, micro and macro-economic
stability would result and in turn engender massive economic growth and
prosperity with a short time,” he said.

“It would further enable national institutions and operatives to gain
valuable insight and intelligence in assets tracing and tracking
through professional analyses of generated information,” he said.

“The full and successful implementation of the proposed scheme will
result in the purging of the rather accommodative mindset of most
Nigerians of corruption and engender a new desired national attitude
against crass acquisition of wealth to the detriment of the common
good,” the lawmaker added.

Proposed law self-serving, anti-people – CISLAC

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative
Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Awwal Musa Rafsanjani said the proposed law is
an attempt by the Nigerian elite to legitimize the looting of public
treasury.

While describing the draft law as ‘self-serving and anti-people,’ Rafsanjani called on Nigerians to rise against such laws.

“This bill that is proposed in the House clearly shows the
desperation by people that looted the country to hide. It is an attempt
to legitimize stolen funds. This is a calculated attempt to further
deepen and institutionalize corruption in Nigeria, whereby you can steal
as much as you want then come and declare whatever you deem fit.

“One can steal N10 billion and declare just N100 million. The
proposed law is anti-people, unacceptable and not in the spirit of the
fight against corruption. It won’t scare those that looted the public
treasury. It is another means of giving them confidence.

“We reject this idea in totality because it won’t help in the fight
against corruption. We call on the National Assembly to desist from
considering it. In the event that they pass it, we call on the president
not to sign it and we call on Nigerians to rise against it,” he said.

Asked about the provision that compels looters to invest the looted
funds in the Nigerian economy, Rafsanjani said: “It’s not workable to
force them to invest the looted money back in Nigeria.

“The only thing is to force them to refund the entire money. So, for
us this isn’t an appropriate thing. When people know that they’ll refund
the entire money, it would discourage them and others.

“What they’re trying to do is to give legitimacy to what is clearly
illegitimate. Looting is a crime against Nigeria and Nigerians because
it denies provision of infrastructure such as roads, water and other
things. As far as we’re concerned, this is wicked.

“There are enabling laws in existence, so they should strengthen them
instead of giving legitimacy to looting. They should create an
atmosphere that looters will find everywhere un-conducive to steal and
hide money,” he said.

culled from : DailyTrust Newspaper

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