Maimuna Abubakar, NIPOST chairman and Muhammad Mamman Nami, FIRS chairman

By Abankula

Two Federal government agencies, NIPOST and Federal Inland Revenue Service are waging a social media war over stamp duty, that will require President Buhari to resolve.

NIPOST chairman, Maimuna Abubakar triggered the war on 2 August, when she tweeted that FIRS has gone rogue over stamp duty, by stealing its mandate, by way of printing the adhesive stamp, attached to documents.

“I like to make this clear, NIPOST is the only agency charged with the responsibility of producing adhesive stamps and revenue for the purchase of such stamp accrues to NIPOST”, Maimuna said on 2 August.

“There is no where in FIRS act or stamp duty act where it’s so stated that FIRS can produce stamp or sale stamp”, she added and attached the hashtag #justiceforNIPOST.

She also mentioned that NIPOST so far had generated N60 billion for the Federal Government from Stamp duty collection.

FIRS went ballistic on reading the tweets and the interest they have generated, hammering Maimuna for showing ignorance over stamp duty.

Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmad, Director Communication and Liaison for FIRS also took to Twitter to reply Maimuna and at the same time, urged the public to disregard her campaign.

“Our attention was drawn to the tweet by Mrs. Abubakar. Her indecorous tweet would not have deserved any response but for the sensitive nature of the issue at stake, which if not sensibly treated and promptly corrected would likely mislead the public.

“To be sure, NIPOST is a government parastatal established by Decree 41 of 1992 with the function to develop, promote, and provide adequate and efficiently co-ordinated postal services at reasonable rates .

“This function is clearly contrary to the claim by NIPOST over the administration of stamp duties in Nigeria.

“On the other hand, the FIRS is the sole agency of got charged with the responsibility of assessing, collecting, and accounting for all tax types including Stamp Duties.

“It is therefore shocking to us that such a privileged young lady who happened to be appointed to high office would throw all caution to the air to cast aspersions on reputable public institutions like the National Assembly and FIRS, which she accused of stealing NIPOST idea.

“This, to say the least, is a preposterous claim and great disservice to the government and people of Nigeria.

“We wish to state categorically that, as an agency which operates within the ambit of the law.

“The FIRS is determined to not only ensure that all monies collected by NIPOST into its illegally operated Stamp Duties Account are fully remitted into the Federation Account but also make sure that any kobo not accounted for in that account is legally recovered in line with the charge of President Muhammadu Buhari to the recently inaugurated Inter-ministerial committee on the recovery of stamp duties from 2016 till date.

“We therefore call on right-thinking Nigerians to disregard that ill-advised tweet by Mrs. Maimuna Abubakar and allied misinformation being disseminated by NIPOST in relation to Stamp Duties collection, which by law is the responsibility of the FIRS.”

But Maimuna Abubakar doubled down on Tuesday, insisting that NIPOST is the appropriate authority to earn revenue from physical or electronic stamps affixed on any document or contract, liable to pay stamp duty.

“Under the extant laws of Nigeria to wit the NIPOST Act, the Stamp Duties Act and the Finance Act, the adhesive postage stamp is not only used for postage it is the only stamp with which denoting of ALL receipts documents and registrable instruments is to be done in Nigeria”, she said on Tuesday.

“The Tax Certificate or a Tax Clearance Certificate and any other formalized document issued by the FIRS whether in the form of a paper copy or an electronic copy which is printed out remains a document liable to be denoted with an adhesive postage stamp minted by NIPOST.

“The Finance Act 2019 did not delete nor repeal neither did it amend Section 5(d) nor Section 34(1) and (2) of the NIPOST Act 2004.

“Section 34(2) of the NIPOST Act 2004 provides and vests in the Postmaster General of NIPOST the power to appoint or engage agents as business partners to sell by retailing the adhesive postage stamps minted by NIPOST.

“Section 5(d) of the NIPOST Act 2004 provides and vests solely in NIPOST the power to mint stamps. This power is exercised by the Postmaster General of NIPOST pursuant to the provision of Section 34(1) of the NIPOST Act 2004.

“The receipt issued by the FIRS whether in the form of a paper receipt or an electronic receipt which is printed out remains a receipt liable to be denoted with an adhesive postage stamp minted by NIPOST.

“The Finance Act 2019 did not delete nor repeal neither did it amend Section 11(1), (2) and (3) and Section 89(1) of the Stamps Duties Act 2004(As Amended 2019).

“Section 89(1) of the Stamps Duties Act 2004(As Amended 2019) provides that a receipt evidencing the payment of a money amount N4:00k(Four naira) and above MUST be denoted using an adhesive postage stamp and the affixed adhesive postage stamp cancelled out.”

In response to a feedback, she said: “There is no confusion, tax is ad-valorem (in percentage) while N50 is the cost of NIPOST stamp.”

The controversy between NIPOST and FIRS is not new. It has been on for some years, after Nigerian government resolved to collect stamp duty to shore up revenue. Banks began to charge N50 on transactions by account holders, the proceeds of which had built up to N60 billion with CBN.

The nucleus of the argument by NIPOST is that it is the repository of stamps, from where the stamp duty derives its name. It is the only agency that mints stamps.

“Stamps are the historical products from which emanated stamp duties introduced into the country for the first time on April 1, 1939 by the British Colonial Government through the Ordinance 15, 1939”, read an article published by Blueprint newspaper in July.

The FIRS counter-argued that the Finance Law passed in 2019 gives it the power to collect the revenue from stamp duty.

This is where lies the confusion. NIPOST is not disputing FIRS right to collect revenue, its position is that it should harvest the revenue from stamps used for transactions like the N50 imposed by CBN on payments above N1000.

Luckily for the two warring agencies, the Federal Executive Council will meet again on Wednesday.

May be Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mallam Ali Pantami and Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed will bring the issue to President Buhari’s attention.