Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has double down on his fight against corruption by signing a new executive order that will force Nigerian entities to declare their assets in foreign countries and avoid evading taxes.
According to the new “Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS)” which was signed by Buhari on 8 October, tax payers will have 12 months to voluntary declare their assets abroad and those who voluntarily declare their assets will receive some tax reprieve, Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu said.
He also said that according to the order, ‘any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme, pays a one-time levy of 35 percent on the total offshore assets or pays all outstanding taxes, penalties and interest after forensic audit of their offshore assets and income shall obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offenses and offenses related to offshore assets, among others.
‘Equally, failure of any defaulting taxpayer to take advantage of this scheme shall, at the expiration of the scheme result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries.’
President Buhari was elected in 2015 as a crusader against corruption, and his pledge to stop public officials from looting the country’s treasury, after he rightly declared: ‘if we don’t kill corruption, this corruption will kill us.’
According to Nigeria’s news site Vanguard, Mr. Buhari has backed his commitment by putting in place some important measures such as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Whistle-Blowing Policy and the establishment of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, to combat the systemic theft of public resources and by extension, its pernicious effects on human rights and development.
However, his popularity is declining as the Nigerians head to the presidential polls in February. Opposition figures have accused him of nepotism and believe he is using the fight against corruption to persecute opposition figures and past rivals while ignore craft charges against his APC party members. Others have accused the government of undermining the judiciary arm other state in its fight against corruption. Burahi’s popularity has declined from 80% in December 2015 to 41 % in recent polls.
Howver, President Buhari has in several instances taken disciplinary actions against his own officials accused of corruption. In October 2017, Babachir David Lawal, Nigeria’s most senior civil servant and secretary to the government, who was implicated in a $8 million fraud scandal by the Senate, was sacked by the presidency. He sackedAyo Oke, head of Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency, who was found in the quagmire of controversy around the $43 million cash stash found by Nigeria’s anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.