Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The 36 state governors have resolved to demand for the payment of stamp duties from President Bola Tinubu’s administration in line with their agreement with former President Muhammadu Buhari, THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY gathered from sources close to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) that barring any unforeseen circumstances, the governors will, in their next meeting, make a formal request to President Tinubu’s administration for the payment of the stamp duties said to have accumulated to trillions of naira.
The governors argued that the trillions of naira that have accumulated from the payment of stamp duties would cushion the effects of petrol subsidy removal better than the “token” being given to the states by the federal government as palliatives.
Some of the governors, it was learnt, have also threatened to reopen the case at the Supreme Court, if the federal government fails to honour the commitment of the immediate past administration.
The Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation had in September 2021 dragged the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), before the Supreme Court over the failure of the federal government to remit the funds generated from stamp duties into state accounts.
It was however gathered that the governors and former President Buhari reached an out-of-court agreement where the former president made a commitment to pay the governors the unremitted funds, which run into trillions of naira.
In the suit marked SC/CV/690/2021, the 36 attorneys-general prayed the court to determine whether or not the states have the sole authority to administer and collect stamp duties on all transactions involving individuals/persons within their respective states.
They also asked the court to determine “whether having regard to the provisions of Section 4(2) of the Stamp Duties Act Cap. S8 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria read in conjunction with the provisions of Section 163, items 58 and 59 of the Second Schedule part I and items 7 (a) and (b) of the second Schedule part II and other provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the defendant (AGF) could claim, retain, distribute or in any other manner deal with the monies or sums collected as stamp duties on individual persons transactions within the respective states of the plaintiffs without reference to, concurrence of, input or agreement of the plaintiffs?”
The state attorneys also asked the court to compel the AGF to give account and pay back the monies generated from stamp duties from the states between 2015 and 2020 and thereafter till the time of judgment.
The states also asked for: “An order of this honourable court directing the defendant to pay over to the plaintiffs all the sum of monies amounting to one hundred and seventy six billion, sixty seven million, four hundred thousand naira (N176,067,400,000,00) representing ascertained and admitted collected stamp duties on individual persons’ transactions within their respective states for the period of 2015 to 2020 and thereafter till the time of the judgment of this honourable court or any other sum as the plaintiffs may be found entitled by the honourable court.”
However, the out-of-court settlement halted further actions at the apex court as former President Buhari was said to have made a commitment to pay the governors an agreed sum of money.
THISDAY gathered that all the efforts by the governors for Buhari’s administration to pay the money before it handed over power to President Tinubu proved abortive.
But following the precarious economic situation in the country, which forced the states to depend on palliatives from the federal government to cushion the effects of the removal of petrol subsidy on the people, the governors have resolved to ask President Tinubu to pay the money.
“A lot of money in trillions of naira is involved. Buhari’s administration had agreed that all the states would share N2.3 trillion. It was almost paid before those governors left. It is just a delay because nobody can stop the payment. The authenticity of the money is not in doubt. States will eventually collect the money. The governors have resolved that the issue will come up in their next meeting in view of the issue of subsidy palliatives,” one of the sources close to the governors told THISDAY.
The source said due to the present economic situation and the need for palliatives to cushion the effects of the removal of subsidy, the governors are threatening to go back to the apex court for a definitive pronouncement on the stamp duty money.
The source added that several trillions of naira were collected by the federal government from 2015 to date.
The governors, the source said, are particularly disturbed that proceeds from stamp duty have been withheld by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the federal government, noting that “this is money every state can use now especially now that the citizens are facing hard times instead of the token that the federal government is handing out to the states as palliatives.”
The source said the issue would be a major agenda of the governors at their next meeting.
Another source close to the governors also confirmed to THISDAY that at the twilight of the Buhari’s administration, efforts were made by the governors for the payment of the agreed amount to no avail.
In their suit filed at the Supreme Court, the states are contending that they are legally vested with the authority to administer and collect stamp duties on all transactions involving individuals and persons within their territories, and not federal government.