May 26, 2024

Governors grumble over withheld N3.8 trillion stamp duty fund


By Our Reporter

State governors, under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, are warming up for a face-off with President Bola Tinubu over the refusal of the Federal Government to share the Stamp Duty Fund with the 36 state governors and some consultants.

Sources in the NGF said the state governors are piqued because they feel the Presidency is deliberately withholding the money to put them further into tight corners financially.

“Already, the governors have been holding meetings on the matter. The thinking is that the Presidency is intentionally holding on to the funds, running into billions of naira because it is the one controlling the agencies collecting the money. This is causing hardship in the states, as the governors also need such funds to implement programmes to cushion the effects of the economic hardship in the country.

“It is not only the federal government that needs more money to implement its programmes, the states also do. The governors are insisting that the fund be released to enable them cope with the escalating consequences of high cost of living in the country. We are all witnesses to the fallouts of the oil subsidy removal, the floating of the naira and some policies of the federal government on the people, “ the source said.

It was gathered that a Northern governor, who has been making spirited efforts to get the fund shared, expressed anger that some aides of the President are frustrating efforts at getting the money released.

“Even after the President has shown interest in releasing the money, some of his aides are playing the role of fifth columnists. They want to arm twist the governors to be given part of the money, and that it is only when such a promise is made that they can prevail on the President to release the fund.

This is an administration which came on board with the mantra of Renewed Hope Agenda. Such actions are giving the administration negative public image.

“Mr. President is a listening president, but for the cog some persons have constituted themselves into, the fund would have been shared among the federal and the state governments,” he added.
The amount to be shared is about N 3.8 trillion between the federal government, the 36 states and agencies of government.

Details indicate that states will get the lion’s share of the money, 73 percent, FG would get 14 percent, FIRS would get four percent, while coordinating consultants would get five percent, legal team two percent and Banking Honours and others, two percent.

The Attorney-Generals of States and Civil Society Organisations had dragged the FG to court to remit the funds generated through Stamp Duties into state accounts.

However, it was gathered the governors and former President Muhammadu Buhari reached truce and settled the matter out of court, when the former president made a definite commitment to pay the governors the proceeds of the fund. The case, the governors instituted was marked SC/CV/690/ 2021.

The matter bothered on 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 had also asked the court to determine “whether having regard to the provisions of Section 4(2) of the Stamp Duties Act CAPS 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 1 and items 7(a) and (bb) of the Second Schedule part 11 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 input or agreement of the plaintiffs.”

The matter was, however, settled out of court and Buhari made a commitment to pay, but that did not happen before he left office.

However, with the current economic situation in the country and governments battling to raise funds to execute their programmes, the state governors are also in need of more money.

A governor from the South-West, it was gathered, has been pacifying his colleagues, promising that the President would release the fund before the end of next month.