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AGF orders probe of Kashamu's firm for stamp duties contract …Senator reacts

By The Citizen

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the involvement of Kasmal International Services Limited in a stamp duties' deal with the Federal Government. The firm is believed to be owned by Senator Buruji Kashamu.

The AGF requested the EFCC to establish, among others, the legitimacy of the purported consultancy agreement between Kasmal and Nigeria Postal Service (NPS), that the firm should collect stamp duty from commercial banks and other financial institutions.

AGF's media aide Salihu Isah said in a statement yesterday that the minister gave EFCC three weeks to conclude the investigation and report to him.

The directive, it was learnt, was contained in a three-page letter of March, 4, 2016, by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation (DPPF), Mohammed Saidu Diri.

It reads: 'The Chairman of Kasmal International Services Limited is Prince B. Kashamu, who is a senator representing Ogun State.

'The Acting Post master General/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Postal Service is Mr. Enoch Ade Ogun.

'You may also need to interview Ibrahim Mori Baba, former Postmaster General of the Nigeria Postal Service and B.S Yakubu, secretary/legal adviser of the Nigeria Postal Service in the course of your investigation,' it said.

Isah quoted the AGF as observing that the NPS is an agency of the Federal Government established by sections 1 (1) & 2 (a) (b) of the Nigeria Postal Service Act, Cap. N127, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

He said 11 documents were attached to the letter by the AGF.

Another document is titled: 'Request for the Investigation of the purported consultancy agreement for collection of Stamp Duty from banking and other financial Institutions (BOFI) between Nigeria Postal Service and Kasmal International Services Limited (also known as Kasmal Group), which led Kasmal Group to purport to waive all arrears of remittances from 2004 till the commencement of CBN Circular No. CBN/GEN/DMB/02/006 of January 15, 2015, which Nigeria Postal Service was entitled under Section 89 of the Stamp Duties Act LFN 2004 to collect as well as the N20 penalty on every such unpaid remittance of N50 as prescribed by the Stamp Duties Act'.

'In the Nigeria Postal Service reference No. NIP/PMG/181/VOL.11 dated February 1, 2016, the Acting Postmaster General of Nigeria Postal Service confessed that there is no formal memorandum of understanding/contract MOU agreement between NIPOST and Messrs Kasmal International Services Limited stating any term of engagement, yet Kasmal International Services Limited proceeded to grant a waiver to all commercial banks and financial institutions by a letter dated December 22, 2015, all arrears of remittances from 2004 till January 1, 2016, which NIPOST was entitled under Section 89 of the  Stamp Duties Act to collect as well as the 20 Naira penalty on every such unpaid remittances of N50 as prescribed by the Stamp Duties Act.

'See also Kasmal International Services Limited letter dated January 21, 2016 to the Post master General/CEO, Nigeria Postal Service, Abuja. The attorney general of the federation respectfully request that your commission investigate this matter and submit a report to him within three weeks of the receipt of this letter'.

It was learnt that the Special Assistant to the AGF on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, in an internal memo dated March 17, 2016, advised the minister to take over the representation of the NPS in the appeal pending in the Court of Appeal.

Obono-Obla was also said to have requested the AGF 'to take over the representation of the NPS in a suit by Kasmal International Services Limited against NPS and the attorney general and other Federal Government agencies in the Federal High Court, Abuja'. The Nation.

Meanwhile, Senator Buruji Kashamu has reacted to the directive by the Attorney General of the Federation.

Kashamu, in a reaction by his lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede in Abuja Wednesday, argued that the directive amounted to a clear criminal contempt of the Federal High Court which had on the 24th of February 2016 in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/100/2016 made an order restraining the AGF and the EFCC from 'from interfering in a purely contractual relationship between Kasmal and NIPOST.'

He noted that the Federal High Court in its judgments in Suits Nos. FHC/L/CS/1462/2013 (between Kasmal and the 22 Deposit Money Banks - DMBs) and FHC/L/CS/1710/2013 (between KASMAL and the Central Bank  of Nigeria - CBN) had interpreted the Stamp Duties Act LFN 2004 and the NIPOST Act LFN 2004 and found that the Stamp Duties Act made provision for the exemption of certain documents (including receipts for teller deposits and electronic transfers by Deposit Money Banks for sums of 1000 Naira and above) from payment of stamp duties if the documents have affixed to them 50 Naira postage stamps bought from the NIPOST.

'The two actions were brought by KASMAL as public Interest actions to ensure that the banks remitted the 50 Naira to NIPOST after NIPOST had appointed KASMAL as its agent.

'NIPOST as a statutory agency with exclusive authority to produce postage stamps in Nigeria has always operated through agents and pays them up to 20% as commission from collections made for sale of postal services including sale of postage stamps. KASMAL's position is no different from this and it was agreed that if KASMAL could open up this stream of revenue from the DMBs for use of NIPOST postage stamps to denote stamp duties on receipts for teller and electronic transfers, KASMAL would be entitled to N7.50 from every N50 it collected.

'Although we have no doubt that right minded observers will see the injustice in the move by the AGF's office to deprive KASMAL of the fruits of its efforts, we believe that the directive by the AGF is mischievous and calculated to bring the judicial process into disrepute. We will bring this unlawful abuse of office to the attention of the court at its next sitting on this matter on the 17th of April 2016,' he said.