To become a member of the Federal Executive Council, Adebayo Shittu, Nigeria’s communications minister recently exposed for failing to take part in the national youth service, submitted to the Nigerian Senate a receipt of N5,000 as proof of his tax compliance for three years, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
The paltry amount was paid to the Oyo State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development for ‘miscellaneous services’ in March 2014, this website found during a review of the credentials the minister submitted to the Nigerian Senate.
Shittu attached the receipt to a 10-page profile he submitted to the Senate in October 2015 for screening following his ministerial nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister failed to square up, even by a small percentage, with his cabinet colleagues like Ibe Kachikwu, who paid N52.8 million in personal income taxes in three years from 2012 to 2014, or Okechukwu Enelamah, who paid almost N8 million in the same period.
Like Shittu, Kachikwu and Enelamah became ministers in 2015 directly from the private sector, even though the cabinet is packed with people from the public sector, including former governors, senators and other top government office holders.
Shittu did not appear to have any tax identification number as of the time he paid the N5,000 to the town planning office in 2014, indicating he might not have been a regular taxpayer. The minister did not present any evidence of three-year compliance because his N5,000 receipt did not carry his earnings for the period.
He was able to get away with the scandalous tax receipt despite claiming in his curriculum vitae that he had been the chairman of Al-Furqaan Petro-Gas & Gen. Services Ltd. from 2000 until his ministerial nomination 15 years later.
The minister also said at the time that he was founder and proprietor of Al-Furqaan International College from 2002 until his nomination.
To be considered for government contracts and appointments into government positions, beneficiaries are usually expected to present evidence of tax payments for the preceding three years.
Ministerial nominees are usually expected to fulfil that requirement as proof that they are responsible citizens worthy of being trusted with government positions. It was to fulfil that requirement that Shittu sumbitted a N5000 receipt.
The meagre sum the minister declared in tax payment has further exposed him as an official not living up to the personal image he regularly projects: that of a pious socialist for whom dignity and citizenship are eternal virtues.
The All Progressives Congress eliminated Shittu from its governorship primaries field in Oyo State in September, days after PREMIUM TIMES established he ignored the youth service scheme after graduating from the university in the late 1970s.
Shittu admitted his failure to serve was deliberate, but brushed off the criminal consequences of his decision. His major excuse was that he was elected into the Oyo State House of Assembly immediately after his degree, an achievement he said he assumed was greater than taking part in the NYSC.
Shittu did not return requests for comments from PREMIUM TIMES on our latest findings around his taxes. A spokesperson for the Nigerian Senate also declined comments on why the upper chamber cleared the minister for appointment despite not providing evidence he had been paying taxes.
While Shittu’s N5,000 tax receipt might appear too ridiculous to be taken as genuine declaration for someone who runs a school and an oil and gas business, some loopholes in extant tax regulations might actually allow the minister to declare as little as possible, or even nothing, according to investment analyst Bismarck Rewane.
“It is possible that a rich man has so many tax deductibles,” Rewane, an executive director at Financial Derivatives Limited in Lagos, said. “He may have been giving scholarships to 50 people, which means that government would perhaps even be owing him.”
Still, Rewane decried Nigeria’s tax policy and enforcement as virtually non-existence.
“Tax compliance in Nigeria is an open season, people just do what they like,” Mr Rewane said. “The laws are loose and the compliance officers are weak.”
Even the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), a recent campaign which the Nigerian government targeted at tax evaders, “nothing came out” of it, Rewane said. Only about N40 billion was realised from the campaign, which ran for a full year from July 2017 to June 2018.