Nigerian House of Representatives in a Plenary

Legislators summon ITI Ministry officials over MTN’s N2.6trn alleged tax evasion

*The House of Representatves Committee on Public Accounts declares Nigerians have the right to know the implications of MTN Nigeria’s taking a certificate of N2.6trillion to Federal Inland Revenue Service for ‘tax waivers’ on the country’s economy

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The Nigerian House of Representatives, in the National Assembly (NASS), Abuja, FCT, has pledged to ensure accountability on the N2.6 trillion Capital Allowances the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Invesment (FMITI)granted to MTN Nigeria.

ConsumerConnect gathered Hon. Oluwole Oke, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, stated this Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at the resumed investigative hearing into the audit queries on tax evasion issued by the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (oAuGF).

The Federal lawmaker also declared that the oAuGF report indicated that the documents relating to the N2.6 trillion Capital Allowances granted the telecoms firm were purportedly forged.

Realting that the committee had invited MTN over tax evasion, Hon. Oke also explained that the oAuGF, in its report, observed that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) accorded value to the telecoms company while in some cases without certificates and evidence of Capital Allowances issued by Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry, reflecting the whole assets procured by the company.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts further said: “We have issues in this country where funds are not adequate for government to carry out policies and programmes, which is why we had to borrow even though there are massive revenue leakages.

“MTN has also made appearances where N2.6 trillion was seen as the taxable value for assets of the company and we asked as to where they exist and who verified them because they had already claimed value for them with the FIRS.”

According to Oke, Nigerians have the right to know the implications of MTN taking a certificate of N2.6 trillion to FIRS for tax waivers on the economy.

“The parliament simply wants to know whether it should sustain the query raised by the Auditor General or absolve the company of the allegations of tax evasion, as it would be wrong to accuse it of such if these records tally with the company’s submission,” he explained.

“The issue says that we should speak to facts and law. You’re here when we asked the Industry Ministry and they said both the local and foreign contents were the certificates they issued to you.

“However, the Auditor-General says such issuance appears to have been falsified which was the basis of its query to you,” the legislator stated.

Responding, Mrs. Yemisi Adeleye, General Manager of MTN, explained that the company had submitted all relevant documents issued by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry, reflecting the value of N2.6trillion given to it.

While responding to questions on the 2016 inspection relating to the capital allowances granted to the company, the General Manager observed that the telecoms company made claims to the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry at the end of the year, prompting them to choose a location and inspect, as it was physically impossible for them to inspect thousands of assets across the country.

Hence, the Ministry, based on their selection using supporting documents granted the allowances.

She said what the company had in 2016 was the automated card record bearing Ins and Outs of the team leader, one Mr. Ike.

Asked how many people were on the team with Ike who had the access card and inspected assets from 29th March to 4th April, she said she couldn’t remember the identities of the Ministry officials as the team members were not captured individually in the record.

She said what they presented to the FIRS was what their security team gave to them.

When asked again if the Ministry wrote the company informing it of the inspection date and the list of team members or just by words of mouth, the MTN official reportedly said that the Ministry formally communicated to that effect.

Also asked how many assets they inspected within the five days, she said she could not recall.

She also contended that the most expensive of the company’s infrastructure were warehoused in their switches located in Ojota in Lagos, Port Harcourt, among other places.

While giving details on the claims made by the company for capital allowance, she disclosed that the sum of N18,967,410,769 was claimed in 2016.

In 2017, a logbook was brought back reading Abuja switch with Ike and three others as inspection team members, she stated.

According to her, a total sum of N148 billion capital allowance was granted to the company, while N210 billion was approved in 2018 after the visit to the Ojota switch, as well as N190,629,586,000 in 2019 following a visit to the Port Harcourt switch, report said.

When asked if all the assets procured by the company in 2019 were all located at the Port Harcourt switch, she responded in the negative.

She added that in 2020, the Ministry officials visited Abuja switch, another team visited Ojota switch, while another visited Port Harcourt and granted capital allowance worth N219,540,623,545.

When asked if she would agree to give out a value of N219 billion based on one inspection that visited just three locations out of over a thousand locations, she said the company only filed what was approved by the inspection team with the FIRS for consideration.

However, Oke in his remarks, reiterated the lawmakers’ resolve to ascertain the patriotic and professional involvement of the Ministry officials.

The lawmaker noted that they could not fold their arms and watch when people whose salaries and allowances were appropriated to do a job failed to carry out their duties under the law.

To this end, the committee resolved that all the officials involved in the inspection from the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry should be made to appear before it.

It also requested the tax records covering the periods under review from both MTN and FIRS for further legislative scrutiny.

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