NLC, FG investigate Panama paper leaks, illicit financial flow from Nigeria

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had the Federal Government to commence the process of investigating the Panama paper leaks which suggested that over 50 billion dollars is taken away from African annually through tax evasion and illicit financial flow.

Speaking Wednesday at a rally aimed at halting illicit financial flow from Nigeria, President of Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said the Federal Government should put in place measure to ensure that all citizens pay correct tax in accordance with the extant laws in the country, pointing out that there must be tax Justice in the country.

He said the Congress had also wrote President Muhammadu Buhari asking the government to cancel of all tax treaties with tax havens and stop signing new treaties with tax havens and developed nations, especially those giving the major taxing rights to such nations as they aid illicit financial flow.

He said the country can only develop when individuals and corporate bodies operating in the country pay the correct tax, pointing out that a situation where only the working class pay the correct tax is no longer acceptable.

His words: “The challenges in our economy require new thinking and also looking at opportunities that abound. The issue of tax Justice is an issue that we have been canvassing for over time. Therefore, this is a campaign to demand for tax Justice in form of avoidances of payment of tax and wiring our taxes to tax heaven around the world.

“Sufficiently, the African Union report on illicit financial flow out of Africa have put a conservative figure of 50 billion dollars annually being taken out of Africa through illicit financial flow. Most multinational as well as powerful individuals don’t pay tax, but wire their taxes to tax heaven.

“You are aware that the Panama paper leaks has given us enough information. So, this is another leg to the fight against corruption which should not be only on issues of solid cash within our country. I think that a large proportion of Africa is losing a lot through this illicit financial flow.

“So, we thought that side b side with the wholistic issue of fighting corruption, we must also demand for tax Justice because in Nigeria today, it is only the poor and the less privilege that pay tax in accordance with the provisions of the law. The workers page what you call pay as you earn. But the high and mighty avoid payment of tax and therefore today, we are demanding for tax Justice.

“The philosophy of the payment of tax all over the world is for the rich to subsidies for the poor, but not for the poor to make subsidy for the rich. That is why this rally is about demand for the halting of issue of tax invasion and tax waiver and demand for tax Justice.

“Let all citizens pay tax commensurate with what the law said and jot for the poor to continue to service the rich. If Africa must develop, we must stop the issue of illicit financial flow and our money and resources must not be exploited. We must have value for those resources and those services that are taken away from Africa.

“We have all read the Panama paper leaks and in most countries, investigations have started. But in our case. It has continued to be hidden under the table. What we are demanding is tax Justice and that not only workers should be made to pay tax.

“The campaign for now is about illicit financial flow which has been well defined by the AU report. For now, we want to limit this campaign to the issue of stopping illicit financial flow out of Nigeria and Africa.

“This illicit financial flow has not stopped because those involved are the high and the mighty who have connections around the world and take this money to tax heaven where it cannot be traced. We are demanding that our government put searchlight on all businesses and all their proxies to ensure that we are able to pay the correct tax.

“When we pay tax, we will have more than enough to drive our economy because what drive economies around the world is the ability of the citizens to pay tax under the philosophy of the rich paying more to subsidize the poor and not the other way round like we have on our country where the poor lag for the rich.

“If you don’t pay tax, there are provisions for you to be sanctioned because there are provisions in our laws for that. But the starting point is to investigate the Panama paper leaks because we must be interested in how those issues are concluded.

“It will provide an opportunity in this to e of recession to look at our potentials. But Nigeria is a very rich country with a very large population of the poor with few people controlling those resources.”

In its letter to President Buhari, the Congress said the country must commit to genuine and effective implementation of the recommendations of the AU report on Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) from Africa.

The congress said further that the government must “aggressively pursue the creation and sustainability of a progressive tax base as a sure and steady way of domestic resources mobilisation.

“This will include mass creation of jobs that will provide the opportunity for the expansion of the tax base. By this, our government can set the agenda for improving public services delivery and sustainable development. Besides, this is a core issue of sovereignty and self-determination. Progressive tax justice policies mean African countries can be financially self-sufficient and free from aid dependency.

“That Nigerian and African governments commit to ensure that companies doing business pay their fair share of tax on the economic activities that takes place within our jurisdiction.

“Whether companies are extracting minerals, setting up factories, or selling goods or services, we will deprive our people of their basic needs and human rights if we do not ensure corporations pay their fair amount of taxes. This also means addressing race-to-the-bottom tax incentives and tax competition policies on a regional basis.

“We also urge you and other leaders to strictly limit the use of discretionary incentives and provide transparent explanations and parliamentary reviews of incentives when they are used.

“We call on the federal government to cancel tax treaties with tax havens and stop signing new treaties with tax havens and developed nations, especially those giving the major taxing rights to such nations as they aid illicit financial flow.

“That Nigerian government and other African governments undertake national and regional coordination to reduce harmful tax competition across borders. Importantly, Nigerian government must resist the temptations and advices to undertake tax policies that will pass tax payment burdens on the poor.

“For instance, essential items such as food and medicines should not be taxed. Rather, we will encourage taxing of luxury goods, as well as suggest that government considers higher taxes on harmful goods such as cigarettes.

“We strongly urge the Nigerian government to continue to pursue asset recovery as loot by public and private officials and not accept regressive advice such as national assets sale. To this end, we ask the Nigerian government to investigate and prosecute Nigerians found wanting from the recent Panama Papers leaks.

“We trust that the Nigerian government will take the lead in Africa’s efforts to curtail dependency on aid, provide better public services to our people, and gain stronger control of our path to sustainable development.”

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