Special courts to prosecute sundry tax evasion cases and official graft are to be set up by President- elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), it was gathered yesterday.
The courts, which will be in the Federal Capital Territory, would deal strictly with corruption and tax evasion offences by companies, individuals and government officials.
The courts are expected to lift the burden of excruciating and delayed trials of offenders by regular courts so that the next government can get fast results in its avowed war against corruption.
Chairman of the Anti- Money Laundering and Cyber Security Coalition at the National Assembly, Senator Aloysius Etok, disclosed yesterday that the coalition of senators and members of the House of Representatives had already got the nod of the President-elect to set up the courts.
Etok expressed optimism that the courts, when established, will take off the burden of such cases from the regular courts and give them accelerated hearing.
“We are confident that these courts will give accelerated hearing to tax evasion cases and other cases bothering on corruption,” he said.
Senator Etok disclosed that the National Assembly is probing about 115 tax offenders.
Besides, the lawmaker also revealed that senators in the course of investigations found that about 50 contracting firms working with the Federal Ministry of Works operate with forged tax certificates.
Among the companies that may come under the hammer of the National Assembly for tax evasion amounting to billions of Naira, according to the committee and the ICPC, are Arab Contractors, Septa Energy, Tower Aluminum, B. Stabilini and 112 others.
Etok also disclosed that the legislature was pushing for the prosecution of companies with high rate of casualised workers and fraudulent expatriate quota practices.
The lawmaker warned that with sustained evasion of taxes by companies, agencies like the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, would fold up, as according to him, the agencies depend on taxes for survival.
The ICPC, in a document submitted to the Senate, stated that: “In view of the Financial Intelligence analysis carried out by the commission on the plethora of petitions received on issues bothering on Tax Clearance Certificates scam, investigation led to the uncovering of tax evasion, nonpayment of Capital Gains Taxes, nonremittance of Withholding Tax and Value Added Tax, VAT.”
The commission regretted the serial breach of the procurement process with the collaboration of procurement officers.
“Procurement is an area that has long been recognised as being particularly vulnerable to corruption because public procurement through government contracting represents a substantial percentage of the economy,” the document stated.
Meanwhile, former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, yesterday visited General Buhari and assured him of the support and cooperation of the international community.
He stated that the entire world was excited with the outcome of the March 28, 2015 presidential election in the country.
Blair explained that the global support was predicated on the belief that the President-elect and his vice are determined to do their best for the country.
According to him, Nigeria has earned the respect of the international community because of the way the elections were conducted without rancour.
In an opening speech before the duo retired into a closed-door meeting, Blair said: “In the last few weeks, Nigeria has earned respect throughout the whole world. There is enormous support for Nigeria now in the international community. The support takes into consideration the challenges that lie ahead and there is great confidence in the country.
“This is an election which took place in a way which the country showed the majority of democracies the spirit and character of its people and in the President- elect and Vice President- elect; it is a leadership that I know is determined to do its best for the country.
“Obviously, the future and destiny of Nigeria lie in the hands of its people. I just want to say to the President-elect that there is tremendous support for you and the country at this moment and all of us, in whatever way we can, stand ready to support you and help you.
“It is a moment of great challenges which bothers on the life of the people as well as their security and so on.
“If the same spirit and character that defined the election can be taken through these coming years to address the challenges, I think we can all have great confidence in the times ahead.”
Buhari who later briefed the press on the outcome of the parley said: “We had a meeting and discussed how Britain and the United States were helping us in making sure that we conducted ourselves according to our constitution.
“The fact that it (election) has been so successful is a major relief for us and to all people of conscience throughout the world.
“I thank the former British Prime Minister for his concern for Nigeria and Nigerians, in what he is prepared to do by continuing to help us as a country and as a people.”