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Standard Chartered Bank RMAFC,EFCC in Legal Tussle over N890.9million Tax liabilities

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 Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited has approached a federal high court in Lagos urging the court to declare that   Value Added Tax VAT and withholding Tax WHT liabilities by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), as illegal, and of no effect whatsoever.

     The Bank is also urging the court to  declare that the Federal Inland Revenue Service is the sole agency of the Federal Government statutorily empowered to administer, assess, collect and enforce the payment of, Federal taxes (including VAT and WHT due to the Federal Government) pursuant to the Value Added Tax Act, Companies Income Tax Act and other tax statutes enumerated in the First Schedule to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act.
    The Bank in amended Statement of Claim filed before the court by its lawyer, Chukwuka Ikwuazom, SAN , is contending that the Federal Inland Revenue Service cannot abdicate these statutory functions to the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission RMAFC and Economic and financial commission EFCC who are 1st and 2nd defendants  respectively in this suit
       The Bank stated that, sometime in 2016, the RMAFC, in the purported exercise of it’s powers allegedly donated to it by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, commenced what it described as “verification and reconciliation of revenue collections and remittances” by banks (including the Plaintiff) on behalf of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigeria Customs Service for the period between 2008 and June 2012.
     It stated that the Defendant, without any factual or legal basis, issued a demand notice demanding from the Bank a whooping sum of N20,701,648,351.40 (Twenty billion, seven hundred and one million six hundred and forty-eight thousand three hundred and fifty-one Naira and forty kobo) which the RMAFC claimed to be unremitted Value Added Tax (“VAT”), and Withholding Tax (“WHT”) due to the Federal Government from the bank for 2008 to June 2012 financial years.
         The bank  objected to the RMAFC  authority to issue the demand notice, it not being the agency of the Federal Government statutorily empowered to administer, collect and enforce tax obligations on behalf of the Federal Government.
     The bank further objected to the demand notice on the ground that the bank did not owe the alleged tax liability contained in it.
     The Bank maintained that, at the time of the issuance of the said demand notice, it has fully discharged its tax obligations to the Federal Inland Revenue Service for the relevant years (2008 to June 2012) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, which had concluded a tax audit of the bank, had not \ issued any additional assessment of tax to the bank
    But, the RMAFC allegedly acting through its agents, Messrs. Dele Olaniyan & Co. and Aikosi Festus & Co., disregarded the bank’s objections and continued to pursue the recovery of the purported VAT and WHT liabilities.
       Following several invitations of employees of the bank to the offices of the EFCC at No. 154 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos and threats of arrest and detention of its senior employees, the bank reluctantly agreed to engage with the RAMFC consultants on the alleged unremitted VAT and WHT.
     It stated that as a result of the 1st Defendant’s illegal verification exercise and unlawful and baseless demand for unremitted VAT  and WHT, the bank has suffered and continues to suffer inconvenience and incur costs by its engagement of tax consultant and legal counsel as well as trips made by its officers to the 1st and 2nd Defendants’ offices.
   The bank further stated it has suffered untold hardship and intimidation by the  Defendants in respect of the repeated demands for payment of WHT and VAT, which is clearly outside the statutory powers of the Defendants
    Consequently, the Bank is praying the court for a declaration that it is unlawful for the RMAFC and EFCC to usurp the statutory functions of administration, assessment, collection, and enforcement of payment of federal taxes (including VAT and WHT due to the Federal Government) which functions are vested upon the Federal inland Revenue Service pursuant to the Value Added Tax Act, Companies Income Tax Act and other tax Statutes enumerated in the First Schedule to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment)
The bank is seeking the following declarative orders
‘’A declaration that the 1st Defendant and the Federal Inland Revenue Service cannot engage in parallel audits of the bank and cannot impose parallel assessments of WHT and VAT on the Plaintiff for the period from July 2012 to December or for any other periods.
‘’A declaration that it is unlawful for the 1st Defendant to bypass the statutory powers under the Companies Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax Act, and the Federal inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act for resolving a tax dispute and to procure the EFCC to harass, threaten, intimidate and coerce the bank into paying VAT, WHT, or indeed any other tax liability which the bank. genuinely disputes.
‘’A declaration that the conduct of the defendants has deprived the bank of the statutory procedure for challenging tax assessments as provided under the Companies Income Tax Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, the Federal inland Revenue Services Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and the Value Added Tax Act.
‘’A Declaration that the 1st Defendant’s demand of the sum of N890,931,432.00 (Eight Hundred and Ninety Million, Nine Hundred and Thirty-One Thousand Four Hundred and ThirtyTwo Naira) as VAT and WHT liabilities from the bank in furtherance of its purported “Verification and Reconciliation of Revenue Collections and Remittances” exercise, is premised on an illegal process and therefore invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
    An Order of this Honourable Court setting aside the 1st Defendant’s demand on the bank for the sum of N890,931,432.00  as VAT and WHT allegedly collected on behalf of, but not remitted to the Federal Government for the period from July 2012 to December 2015 as communicated vide the 1st  Defendant’s letter dated 29″ April 2019.
       However RAMFC it’s statement of defence and counter claim filed before the court by its counsel Chief Godwin Obla SAN denies
almost all the claims of  Standard Chartered bank and states that the bank’s averments thereof are self-serving, half-truths and therefore puts the bank to the strict proofs of the averments thereof.
        In further reaction to the foregoing paragraphs thereof. RAMFC states that prior to the commencement of the its Defendant’s verification exercise, it invited all banks to its headquarters on the 29th of November, 2016 to sensitize and educate them of its constitutional mandate thereof to pursue the exercise.
     In specific reaction to  the Statement of Claim, RAMFC states that the consultants, before the commencement of the verification exercise held a commencement meeting with the bank at the bank’s head office in Lagos, wherein RAMFC’s consultants further apprised the bank of it’s letter requesting to provide all relevant documents required for the verification exercise.
   The bank requested to sight any letter of authorisation and introduction by the Federal Inland Revenue Service’s as a precondition to releasing any of the documents requested for verification.
    Despite the Federal Inland Revenue Service’s letter, as aforesaid, requesting the bank to release all relevant documents to enable it’s consultants to carry out their verification exercise, the bank was adamant and refused to provide the required documents as requested. It became obvious that
consequent on the bank’s refusal to release the required relevant documents for the verification exercise, RAMFC subsequently resorted to the alternative approach through the bank’s own published audited Financial Statements, and bank’s Pay Direct Platform, to form best of judgment opinion and to come up with a report on the 18th of April, 2018 indicating a liability of unpaid remittances in the sum of N6, 069, 844, 000.00.
    Rather than furnishing the RAMFC’s  consultants with documents to show evidence of any transaction as proof of payment of remittances within the accounting period verified against them by the  RAMFCs consultant, to establish the basis of their objection, the bank became evasive and rather requested to know how the RAMFC arrived at its computation.
     By a letter dated the 22nd of May 2017, the bank came up with technical objection that all that the RAMFC’s consultant findings were not unremitted collectables but were tax avoidance and requested a discharge from the liabilities for payment of the sum of N6, 069, 844, 00. 000. on the basis of a claim that  its books for the period  had been audited and found no such outstanding liabilities.
Even while the bank was unable to supply any schedule or ledger of transactions in support of the above claim, it was further reviewed downward for the bank to the sum of N3, 899, 164,000
      Rather than complying with the RAMFC  directive to discharge its liabilities to pay the reviewed N3, 899, 164, 000, the bank further objected to the reviewed sum by another correspondence requesting the RAMFC’s consultant to discharge the outstanding liabilities.
     The bank  pressed for further reconciliation meeting, and whereupon, on the 29th of August, 2017, both the RAMFC consultant and the bank agreed on a few things but could not reach a consensus on several others as the bank failed to produce relevant documents.
      Further reconciliation was held at the instances of the bank on the 11th of April 2018, on request that it be granted another opportunity to review fees, commissions and Work in progress to satisfy itself that non-Vatable items are not included,
     Despite all of the efforts by the RAMFC  to accommodate the bank’s
 hecklings and volte-faces after every reconciliation, RAMFC yet obliged the bank another reconciliation after the bank had objected to the outstanding collectable liabilities of N3, 718, 106, 000.00
Consequently, RAMFC issued the  bank a demand notice reflecting the outcome of the reconciliation in the liabilities of N1, 073, 718, 663.74. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) swooped in as a stakeholder when the bank became recalcitrant on meeting these liabilities after infractions had been established.
However, in a strange twist, the bank, by a letter dated the 27th of December 2018 agreed to the liabilities of tax evasion in the sum of N43, 689, 000 in respect of Value-Added Tax (VAT) and additional sum of N141, 012, 000 for Withholding Tax (WHT), totalling N184, 701, 000. 00, and proceeded to pay the total amount into the Recovery Account, leaving a total outstanding balance of N889, 017, 663. 74 unpaid.
Rather than paying up the outstanding balance, bank continued in its antics of unending objections thereafter, objecting even to the outstanding balance.
    Afters,considering the sum of N184,701,000 already paid by the plaintiff the sum of N 752,414,250.23 was left as the outstanding liabilities against the bank.
   RAMFC avers that the Plaintiff suit is an attempt to use the machinery of justice to avoid its mandatory statutory obligation to the Nigeria state.
However in it’s counter claim RAMFC relying on it’s statement of defence and it’s witness deposition prays the court for the following reliefs:
A declaration that by the reconciliation meeting held in Abuja between RAMFC and the bank on the 4th of October 2018, pursuant to its review exercise on accruals, to and disbursement from, the Federation Account, the liabilities of the bank is in the sum of N1, 073, 713, 718, 663. 74 (One Billion, Seventy-Three Million, Seven Hundred and Eighteen Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty Three Naira Seventy-Four Kobo) being the unpaid remittances to the Federation Account as unearthed in the Reconciliation Meeting remains valid, true and represents the true state of the bank’s liabilities to the Federation Account.
      A declaration that by the earlier initial part-payment of the sum of N184, 701, 000. 00 made by the bank pursuant to the RAMFC review exercise, the bank still has balance of liabilities of unpaid remittances from taxes, penalty and interests due for payment to Federation Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the sum of N889, 017, 663. 74 (Eight Hundred and Eighty-Eight
Million, Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-Six Hundred, Seventy-Four Kobo)
An order of the Court directing the Plaintiff to pay the sum of N889, 017,663. 74 (Eight Hundred and Eighty-Eight Million, Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred and sixty six thousand seventy-four Kobo being the balance of liabilities of unpaid remittances from taxes due for payment to Federation Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria
      Interest on the said sum at prevailing interest rates fixed by the Central Bank of Nigeria from the time payment was due and 10% interest until the sum is liquidated.
     Meanwhile, the presiding Judge, Lewis Allagoa has adjourned till next year for hearing to commence

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NNPC Gas Marketing Limited Commissions New Office complex constructed by TILT Energy in Lagos

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NGML one of the core strategic subsidiaries of NNPC commissioned a new office complex at the Ikeja on Monday the 23rd of January.
This is in line with their commitment to providing an enabling environment for workforce which the MD Mr Justin Ezeala described as their greatest asset. It’s also inline with vision of the company of propagating the use of gas a cleaner source of energy across the country.

 

The impressive edifice was designed and built by
Leading integrated energy solutions company, TILT Energy Company Limited
The project, which was completed in the space of one year With no safety incidents in compliance with the extremely high standards of the oil and gas industry ,a testament to the pedigree of TILT Energy as a company.

NNPC and TILT Energy

Speaking at the commissioning Ayodeji Awodiji said that TILT Energy offers a vast array of services beyond just civil construction projects of this standard ,he highlighted the, O&M, pipeline installation and process automation capabilities of the company as an example .
He noted that TILT Energy also has a very strong fabrication base with its fabrication yard situated in Lagos, adding that he was proud to have been part of many flagship projects, including this.
Ayodeji explained that TILT has displayed its ability to work in a live site, where you have gas distribution without any safety incidents.
“We are glad for NNPC gas marketing limited for giving us this opportunity to showcase our core competence.

 

TILT Energy Management

“Like I said we are an EPCI company so civil construction is literally just a small part of what we do,” he said.”
He added that the new office was designed and constructed by TILT Energy on schedule within the stipulated 12 months timeframe.
According to him, “we actually started in December 2021, and we more or less concluded in December 2022, and commissioned in January 2023.”
Also speaking at the event was Mr Justin Ezeala, Managing Director, NNPC Gas Marketing Limited (NGML), who revealed that in spite of the challenges TILT Energy had at the beginning, he was particularly proud of their capacity to deliver on schedule.
The Executive Director Asset Management of NGML Mr Lawrence Chukwu also in his remarks commended the contractor for the outstanding quality of work , their professionalism and safety standards
He said he was happy that the project was situated close to one of their biggest partners Gaslink,
The well attended event had dignaties such as the MD of gaslink, the MD of NIPCO, Falcon Energy and Mtech in attendance (names)
Additionally, speaking on TILT energy’s ongoing projecrs coming projects, Ayodeji revealed that rehabilitation of the steam turbine at the Olorunsogo power plant owned by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company is expected to be completed by the end of the 1st quarter of this year and would bring on stream an additional 125 megawatts to the national grid when completed

According to him, the Olorunsogo Power Plant project is a very significant milestone for a local company to execute.

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ADEDUNTAN URGES BANKS TO IMPROVE LOAN MONITORING TO PREVENT NPLS’ BUILD-UP

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Dr. Adesola Adeduntan - FirstBank CEO

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, has advised financial institutions in the country to be vigilant and improve the monitoring of their customers’ loans in order to prevent the build-up of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the industry as a result of the macroeconomic challenges.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Adeduntan also urged businesses and their bankers to approach the new year in a collaborative relationship in order to overcome anticipated headwinds in the economy.

Adeduntan explained, “To prevent rising NPLs, businesses and their bankers will have to collaborate more and ensure timely flow of information to prevent surprises.

“Banks on their part will have to improve monitoring of their loan portfolio to quickly identify early warning signals for attention before a full-scale loan deterioration.

“Overall, businesses and their bankers must approach 2023 with a partnership mindset to ensure that a win-win outcome is achieved despite the anticipated macroeconomic challenges.”

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, recently warned that 2023 would be tougher than 2022 for much of the global economy, as the United States, European Union and China see slowing growth.

Georgieva had said 2023 would be a “tough year”, with one-third of the world’s economies expected to be in recession.

The IMF had in October cut its global growth forecast to 2.7 per cent, down from 2.9 per cent forecast in July, amid headwinds, including the war in Ukraine and sharply rising interest rates.

Owing to the anticipated weakening of the global economy, Adeduntan said with slowing growth and elevated inflation rates, the sustainability of foreign debts, especially for developing nations, was likely to call for a re-evaluation by lenders given the increased likelihood of default.

He stated, “When this is juxtaposed with the higher interest rate environment at which these debts are likely to be refinanced, you will observe a scenario where further strain is exerted on the debt repayment capacity of these economies.

“However, this situation does not necessarily translate to an automatic economic doom for developing nations. The actual impact on each developing economy will depend on the economy’s level of fiscal discipline and revenue generating capacity.

“Developing nations, who are able, in the short term, to increase revenues either from taxes or sale/refinancing of idle/sub-optimal assets will be able to negotiate reasonable refinancing terms from lenders and prevent further economic turmoil.

“Nonetheless, all concerned nations need to take the issue of debt sustainability more seriously by limiting fiscal wastages, reducing inefficiencies, growing revenues, and aggressively working down unsustainable debt-to-GDP levels that may worsen the impacts of external shocks.”

Adeduntan also pointed out that expectedly, rising cost of debt and contracting demand would exacerbate the challenges that businesses would face this year, particularly for players operating in small-margins sectors of the economy.

Locally, the surging inflation rate was also expected to reduce disposable income of most consumers and demand for non-essential goods and services may dip, he said.

He, however, pointed out that despite the expected macroeconomic challenges in 2023, there were also emerging business and revenue opportunities that could be exploited by discerning players in the financial services industry.

Specifically, he identified the areas that would provide significant opportunity to players in the financial services industry to include payments, digital security, mergers and acquisition (M&A) opportunities, partnership across segments and consumer lending.

Adeduntan explained, “The Central Bank of Nigeria’s renewed drive on cashless policy has provided an opportunity for players in the financial services industry to enhance existing digital product offerings and create more attractive product offerings that will further reduce frictions in the payment process.

“This will help to reduce the financial exclusion gap, increase fees and commissions revenues, and improve overall viability and stability of the financial system.”

In the area of digital security, the chief executive said, “Increasing adoption of digital payments platforms will necessitate increased requirement for the security of payment channels. Thus, opportunities exist for players in the financial services industry to leverage robotics and artificial intelligence to improve security protocols on digital payment channels.”

He added, “With the anticipated pressures on earnings, opportunities exist for big and liquid players to gain additional scale and market share through outright acquisition of fringe players with the right strategic fit.

“There is also an opportunity for two or more small and/or medium size players to merge their operations/businesses to obtain scale advantage.

“The growing number of Fintechs and licensed Payment Service Banks also presents an opportunity for improved partnerships across various categories of players in the financial services industry for both mutual and industry-wide benefits.

“Tightening financial conditions of the average household will create opportunities for consumer loans in several variants such as buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), salary advance, consumer asset finance, etc. The industry is already witnessing a rising trend in the creation of digital consumer loan product offerings. This is likely to intensify in 2023.”

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Another set of winners to emerge in ongoing Polaris Save & Win Promo

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Polaris-Bank

…As Christmas Special Draw holds on December 29

 

Polaris Bank has announced that the third draw of its ongoing Save & Win promo is scheduled to hold on Thursday December 29, 2022.

 

The draw which will be conducted electronically, will hold at the Bank’s Victoria Island, Lagos headquarters, and will be broadcast live on the Bank’s social media channels where winners that emerged will be contacted and rewarded instantly.

 

The Bank has rewarded a total of 162 winners in the first and second draws that held on November 4 and December 8, respectively in a transparent selection witnessed by the relevant regulatory authorities.

 

The Bank in a statement on Wednesday, disclosed that another set of 100 Nigerians will be winners and will take-home cash prize of N100,000 each in the Christmas Special Draw.

 

According to Polaris Bank, customers can still participate in, or increase their chances of winning by depositing a minimum of N5,000 in their Savings account. Also, non-customers of the Bank can participate for a chance to win in the draw by opening a Polaris Savings account with N2,000 and growing same to N5,000 before the draw date.

 

Representatives of the relevant Lottery Commissions, Advertising Regulatory and Consumer Protection Agencies would be present at the draw to monitor and ensure transparency in the process.

 

The general public is invited to participate and follow the draw live on the Bank’s social media handles: @Polarisbankltd on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

 

Polaris Bank announced that this year’s Save & Win promo will reward over 4,000 Nigerians with cash gifts ranging from N100,000 to N1,000,000 in its monthly, quarterly and special draws.

 

Below are four (4) ways to participate in the promo:

 

 

  1. Download VULTe on iOS and the App store to open a Polaris Savings Account or dial USSD *833*0# on your phone or log into Polaris Bank savings portal at https://accounts.polarisbanklimited.com/opening/

 

  1. Grow your account by N5,000 or more for 30 days or 3 months to qualify for monthly & quarterly draws respectively; by N50,000 in 3 months to qualify for Xmas Special draw.
  1. If your account is dormant, you can reactivate your account without visiting the Bank by simply logging into the portal:https://accounts.polarisbanklimited.com/reactivate/, accept the terms and conditions, and update the required details the Bank may need.
  1. Follow the Bank’s handles @polarisbankltd across all social media platforms or visit the website at www.polarisbanklimited.com to stay updated.

 

Polaris Bank, adjudged Digital Bank of the Year 2021 and 2022, is a future-determining Bank committed to delivering industry-defining products for individuals and businesses.

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