The Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja, was picketed on Thursday by the workers of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) protesting over the collection of stamp duty.
The workers frowned at the decision of the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, that the proceed of the duty should be warehoused by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) since it’s a tax-related responsibility.
Workers prevent budget presentation: The protest, which prevented the public presentation of the 2020 Budget at the main auditorium of the ministry, hindered guests and government officials from going in or out of the building.
This continued until the Minister was forced to address the protesters, who were led by the leadership of the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies. She advised them to transmit their grievances to her through a proposal.
Are they fighting for their right? According to the workers, the government plans to relieve them of their duties. They opined that such act goes against global practice. They also said FIRS was favoured by the amendment to the Stamp Duty Act carried out by the National Assembly.
The Secretary-General of the union, Ayo Olorunfemi, argued that whough the stamp duty collection would now be carried out electronically, it does not mean government should change the collector.
He added that NIPOST has the right to produce and sell stamp for both postage and duty purposes.
“Our attention has been drawn to the renewed attempt by the minister of finance to take over the stamp duty aspect of the NIPOST function and transfer same to Federal Inland Revenue.
“Her major reason is that since the stamp is used to denote receipts, transactions and other documents, it is a tax and her agency must take it over.
“The minister had used her strength in the area of lobbying to get the House of Representatives to pass the bill.
“The action of the minister is unfortunate, inimical to the ideals preached by this administration and if not checked, is capable of causing inter-agency disunity or unhealthy rivalry even now when all hands must be on deck to uplift the nation.”
He added that, “From the argument of the minister, it follows that if stamp duty is a form of taxation, its collection should be ceded to the FIRS.
“If we permit the evil as being perpetrated, the roles of Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority, Standards Organisation of Nigeria and all revenue collecting agencies will eventually be ceded to the FIRS under the highly powerful minister of finance.”
Why stamp duty is important to the protesting workers: If the FIRS takes over collection of stamp duty, it will likely affect jobs at the Nigerian Postal Service in that the department handling the stamp duty might become redundant. It might also affect the allocation of funds to the office which might, in turn, affect their yearly turnovers.
Meanwhile, Punch reported that taking over the stamp duty collection might open new job opportunities, increase allocation to the FIRS office and drive up the revenue of the Nigerian tax administrator.