Tax remittance: Reps panel threatens to arrest 9 bank chiefs

By The Citizen

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, Dr. Abdulmumini Jibrin, Monday lamented alleged refusal by nine chief executive officers (CEO) of some Nigeria's banks to appear before members of his panel to render explanation on how their respective banks have been remitting tax to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for the past three years.

'There is nobody in this country that is more important than the country. Some of our bank executives, particularly chief executives officers, think they are above the law. The Committee on Finance would prove to them that there is nobody in this country that stands taller than the law of our land,' he said.

At Monday's opening session of the panel's investigation of tax remittance by banks, none of the banks' chief executive officers honoured the lawmakers' summon issued last week. But 12 banks sent representatives and consultants while representatives of the remaining nine were nowhere to be found. Piqued by the development, Jibrin, flanked by other members of the committee, threatened to issue a bench order for arrest of the nine chief executive officers if they fail to appear tomorrow, 22nd of May, 2013 before the committee to show evidence of their tax remittance to the government purse.

Jibrin, who listed most of the defaulting financial institutions as Zenith Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Plc, Skye Bank Plc, Keystone Bank Plc, Heritage Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc and Ecobank Plc, said the investigative exercise is in line with global best practices where banks are placed under tax scrutiny by parliament in view of their strategic role to the economy.

Saying the investigative hearing was aimed at shoring up the revenue base of the government as well as amend or enact relevant laws to achieve the desired goal, Jibrin reiterated the resolve of the committee to strengthen FIRS and optimise the potential of the Nigerian tax system.

According to him, the refusal by the CEOs of the banks not to render account of their tax remittance transaction did not come to members of the committee as a surprise. 'If whatever they are doing, like attending workshops and seminar, is more important than parliament, we shall all be witness to what would happen to them.

'We know that there would be a lot of antics, we know that there would be a lot of games here and there, but the good news for you and Nigerians is that we are prepared. It is in this exercise that we would ask the banks to open up their books so that we see what they are doing when it comes to their roles as collecting agents and we want them to also let us see what they are paying as tax because we are interested in building the revenue base of this country. We can't tolerate a situation where somebody would just sit there and think he is too big, this committee would prove to him he is nobody in this country.'