The Federal government has been called upon to act on its promise to investigate high net-worth Nigerians and corporate bodies operating offshore accounts and investing in tax havens.
Interim Country Director of Actionaid Nigeria, Funmilayo Oyefusi called upon Government to look up to its promise to investigate persons and companies mentioned both in Panama leaks and the Paradise papers.
“While we welcome and appreciate the admission of the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun to the fact that the use of offshore accounts and offshore tax shelters are threats to developing economies as Nigeria. We however look forward to government acting on its promise to investigate persons and companies mentioned in both Panama leaks and the Paradise Papers”.
She said the organisation has campaigned on tax justice and progressive tax policies for the past six years.
“ The recent promise of investigation by the finance minister is not the first of such promises. At the release of Panama Papers, the federal government through Mrs. Adeosun had promised to investigate those mentioned in the exposés, unfortunately in spite of the fact that these individuals and corporates are known public figures and entities, the federal government is yet to come back to Nigerians on this promise to probe more into the issues.”
Oyefusi noted that obviously Government has not shown enough interest in this act of the rich which has resulted in extensive illicit financial flow from Nigeria estimated by the Mbeki-led High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa to be 24.5 trillion Naira (98.6 billion USD), currently equivalent of the country’s three year budget within a period of 18 years.
“No nation that loses such amount of fund, no matter how rich will be able to fund its own developmental needs, its education, health care, social infrastructure and address the issues that deepen inequality and poverty”.
ActionAid Nigeria also expressed concerns in the constant feature of names of Nigeria political office holders as owners of offshore accounts.
“This is not just a worrisome trend but an unfortunate act of betrayal of the country and their loyalty as expected in their pact with the people of the country who have invested trusts in them”.
ActionAid Nigeria therefore calls on the Senate President, to do more by addressing the Nigerian people, especially his constituents who have invested trust in him by electing him into office”.
“In decent environments, it behoves on senior public officials where indicted in such enormous cases to either clear their names, avoiding all ambiguities or step aside until they have been cleared of unwholesome or unpatriotic acts. It is the most decent thing to do”.
The organisation also advise the minister of Finance against reduction of the investigation of the case to technical engagement and rather technicist or academic exercise which mere crosscheck of tax declarations by the indicted persons may become.
“We call on the government to do more than the routine technical check of crosschecking tax declarations to dealing with the substantive fact of the existence and ownership of such offshore accounts and investment in tax havens and their implications for the nation’s economy as an act of sabotage”.