The Attorney-General of Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has written to the 36 state governors asking them to grant access to federal government’s stamp duty recovery agents in their respective domains.

This was contained in a statement issued by Mr Malami’s spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, on Wednesday.

According to the statement, the AGF in his letters to the governors, cited section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act as granting his office “an exclusive power to recover any outstanding payment or remittances related to stamp duty”.

“Pursuant to Mr President’s approval and directives, I also wish to request Your Excellency to direct the state ministries, departments, agencies, and regulatory institutions of financial sector to engage and grant access to the appointed recovery agents for the purpose of the audit and recovery of stamp duty to ensure that all established liabilities are remitted as appropriate,” the statement quoted part of Mr Malami’s letter.

This came days after media reports of a suit filed by the state governors at the Supreme Court, accusing the federal government of failing to remit N176 billion proceeds of stamp duty 2015 to 2020.

They urged the apex court in the suit to order the federal government to refund the money collected as stamp duties on individual persons’ transactions within their respective states for the six-year period.

They also asked the court to declare them as “the sole authorities entitled to administer and collect stamp duties on all transactions involving individuals within their respective states.”

No reference was made to the governors’ suit in the statement issued by Mr Malami’s office on Wednesday.

‘No recovery for 2016 to 2020 yet’

The statement by Mr Malami’s office alluded to “ongoing recoveries” by agents “being conducted for the federal ministries, departments, agencies and financial institutions”.

“At this stage liabilities are being established, and no actual recovery has been made,” the statement added.

This appears to be Mr Malami’s veiled answer to the claim by the governors in their Supreme Court suit that about N176 billion proceeds of stamp duty for 2015 to 2020 had yet to be remitted.

It added that Mr Malami with his letter to the governors was activating the powers given his office by section 111 of the Stamp Duty Act “to conduct the audit and recovery of back years stamp duty in collaboration with stakeholders”.

It also stated that the federal government had set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Audit and Recovery of Back years Stamp Duties from January 15, 2016 to June 30, 2020.

Members of the committee, according to the statement, were drawn from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in collaboration with relevant agencies including the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria, Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, among others.

The statement added that the AGF organised a meeting with attorneys-general of states on similar powers they have “with respect of stamp duty of ministries, departments, agencies and financial institutions in their respective states”.

It said the meeting was “to provide a comprehensive overview of the process and to proper understanding the task.”

Mr Malami’s letter and the governors’ suit on stamp duty proceeds come amid ongoing legal battle between Rivers State and the federal government over revenues from Value Added Tax (VAT).

Since obtaining a judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt affirming Rivers State government the power to collect VAT instead of the federal government, Governor Nyesom Wike and his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, have passed state laws to that effect.

Ogun, Akwa Ibom and Edo states are equally considering similar measures.

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