‘FG Committed to Combating Illicit Financial Flows’

The Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Yemi Dipeolu, says the Federal Government is committed to combating illicit financial flows in the country.

Dipeolu made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on the sidelines of the High Level Technical Consultation on Public Tax and Fiscal Transparency Rules Forum on Thursday in Abuja.

He said the government was making efforts to combat this menace through some of the schemes it had put in place.

“We have the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) where people who have not been paying taxes as they should over the years have been given opportunity to do so.

“I think they have been given the grace till March 2018 to make good on their taxes without paying penalties.

“So, this is a direct response to the kind of issues raised around illicit financial flows,’’ Dipeolu said.

The VAIDS encourages voluntary disclosure of previously undisclosed assets and income for the purpose of payment of all outstanding tax liabilities.

The scheme also offers a limited waiver for declaration within the specified period of time.

On Panama papers, Dipeolu said the papers reflected that there had been hiding places for resources, but government was now ensuring that such occurrence was averted in future.

The Panama Papers are unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The documents showed the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.

Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world, known to have been using offshore tax havens.

Dipeolu said: “the Panama papers reflects that they are hiding places, but with things like the automatic exchange of information for tax purposes, it will be hard to hide resources.’’

On ways of avoiding illicit financial flows in the country, he said it was important to ensure the full return or value of every barrel of oil exported out of the country.

“We can ensure that our foreign exchange is not taken out through over declaration of import or under declaration of export.

“So, there is a variety of ways we can make sure that everybody, who does business in this country, pays the amount of tax that is commensurate to the scale of business they are doing in the country,’’Dipeolu said.

Mr Edward Kallon, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Nigeria, said the forum would aid the UNDP in enhancing support to member countries on basic development frameworks to combat illicit financial flows.

“As you can see, the magnitude are very huge, the resource demands on implementing SDGs are also huge.

“So, we need basically to stamp out illicit financial flows to enable government start financing the implementation of the SDGs.

“So, it is an important forum for us, we are looking to the recommendations of this workshop and also the prescriptions on the way forward.

“We are also using it to build partnership with other colleagues that are here to see how we can jointly work together to help countries develop its frameworks.”