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Tribunal Adjourns Ruling As Multichoice Pays N8bn Deposit In ‘Tax Evasion’ Dispute

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Multichoice Nigeria Limited (MCN) says it has complied with the directives of the tax appeal tribunal (TAT) by depositing with the FIRS an amount required by the law.

The company stated this on Thursday at the resumption of the tribunal hearing over the alleged N1.8 trillion tax evasion dispute.

Multichoice is the owner of the satellite televisions, DStv and Gotv – popular subscription-based platforms in Nigeria.

At the hearing, counsel to MultiChoice Nigeria Limite said the company has complied with the payment of N8 billion — paid in two batches to the FIRS account as instructed by the tribunal on the provision of FIRS Act.

Paragraph 15(7)(c) of the fifth schedule of the FIRS Act, 2007, requires an appellant to pay 50 percent of the tax paid the previous year plus 10 percent mark-up as security before prosecuting an appeal.

At the last hearing, the TAT had upheld the FIRS submission and directed Multichoice Nigeria Limited to depositwith the FIRS an amount equals 50 percent of the assessment under the appeal plus a sum equal to 10 percent of the said deposit as a condition precedent for further hearing of the appeal.

The directive had generated confusionamong stakeholders as FIRS had asked the company to pay 50 percent of the disputed sum (N900 billion) under assessment.

“We have before you an affidavit of compliance. A sworn statement made under oath, first, on the 9th of Sept. Second, 22nd of September 2021,” MultiChoice told the tribunal.

An assessment of N1.8trn was levied on the appellant. Appellant case before your honour is that this amount is arbitrary. No science to it and respondent contrived the numbers. The reality of the appellant’s business is far from what the respondent fixes in its office.

“In respect of this dispute, N8 billion has been paid in the case pursuant to paragraph 15(7) of the FIRS Act. And N2bn in respect of VAT in another matter here before your honour

“We provided two options for the tribunal to work with. Either for 2010 as a preceding year for 2011 or 2019 because we want it to expedite actions. The N1.8trn burden is resting on our finances and our auditors will look at our books if we did not get it out quickly.

“We have displayed enough seriousness and either way tribunal chooses to look at it. Appellant has over complied with the directive.”

On part of FIRS, the counsel claimed that the MCN’s affidavit and documents are self-contradictory and lacked value.

The agency urged the administrative court to discontinue the hearing of the appeal and enter judgment against MultiChoice if the company failed to fully comply with the directive of 50 percent of the N1.8 trillion tax assessment for the years under review.

“We make this submission on the basis that the appellant while they have filed certain affidavit if which they purport to verify that they have complied with the tribunal… those documents are self-contradictory, lacked value. The duty is for the appellant to prove they have complied with the tribunal order,” FIRS said.

“Our prayer is made on the basis of the provision of paragraph 15 sub 7 of the 5th schedule of FIRS Establishment Act.

“We urged the tribunal to refer to paragraph 3 of the appellant’s owned amendment notice of appeal, particularly paragraph 3. 4, dated and filed July 27, 2021.

“If this tribunal would look at the language of paragraphs 3 and 4 of appellant notice of appeal and provision of FIRS Act, it will see the accounting years which is the subject of assessment from 2011 to 2020.

“A preceding year of each of this assessment will require this tribunal to expect the appellant to deposit the charge for each year preceding their accounting year.

“What they have done is to selectively pick and choose the preceding year to reckon with.

“They chose 2010 and made a deposit.

“And they turned back to chose 2019 as another preceding year of N5.3bn.”

The FIRS urged the tribunal to ask MCH to make payment for all preceding years under appeal.

“Our submission is that there are 10 consecutive years, and 2010 or 2019 cant be proceeding years to 2011.

“The preceding years under appeal begin from 2010 and ends in 2019. They picked and chose 2010 and 2019 and forget 2011,12,13,14,15,16,17, and 2018. And that is why they have two affidavits of compliance.

“Our submission is that the assessment under appeal ought and should be confirmed by this tribunal.

“We urged you the Chairman, and other members to please direct that this appeal is foreclosed on the basis of non-compliance in view of the absence of clear evidence on the order of August 2021.”

Professor AB Ahmad, the tribunal chairman, noted the argument of both parties and adjourned to October 20, 2021, for the ruling, asking all parties to submit necessary notices before the date.

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NLC Protests Poor State Of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway

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The Ogun chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Wednesday, blocked the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway over the bad state of the road.

According to NAN, the Lagos chapter of the union also joined the protest.

The protesters carried placards with inscriptions like “We don’t want palliatives”, “We want good roads”, “Dapo Abiodun save our souls from bad roads” and “We are not slaves in our country”.

Emmanuel Bankole, the NLC chairman in Ogun, said the union was not happy with the condition of portions of the Lagos-Abeokuta road and its environs.

“We will not allow anybody to take away our right. In times like this, we do not have any option other than to express our displeasure with the government,” he said.

The chairman said the 21 days ultimatum given by the NLC to Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing, after his visit to Sango-Ota, had lapsed.

Bankole said Fashola had promised to commence palliative work on the road but nothing much had been done since then.

“We deserve better than what we have seen today. What we see today is below our expectations,” he said.

Funmi Sessi, chairman of the Lagos chapter, said the protest was “long overdue”.

“We believe in action and the time for talking is gone. There is an urgent need to ameliorate the sufferings of the masses,” she said.

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Nigerian Press Council Seeks Law To Regulate, License Journalists

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The Nigerian Press Council (NPC) has pleaded with the house of representatives to enact laws to empower the council licence journalists.

Francis Nwosu, executive secretary of NPC, made the demand on Wednesday when he appeared before the house of representatives committee on information, national orientation, ethics and values.

Nwosu said this will also enable the council to generate revenue for the federal government and curb unprofessionalism in the industry.

“We appreciate the effort of this committee to help have a good footing in the Nigerian media space. As you can understand, there is no way we can earn any revenue except we have an act to regulate the media industry,” he said.

“Aside from the rooting implementation of credible media space in Nigeria to help the government to check fake news and disinformation in the society, we are also trying for our players to understand the need to draw a line between journalism practice and journalism business.

He said newspapers need to register as corporate organisations and pay royalties to enable the NPC make money.

“Journalists [need] to register with the council, have a licence to operate. That way, we can have some funds to the coffers of the council,” he said.

“These are the ideas we are thinking can help instead of depending entirely on the federal government for revenue. We can generate some amount every year from the registration of journalists and the registration of media houses.

“By this way also, we are also talking about supervising journalism training institutions and ensure that the right things are done in the institutions of learning so that we have well-trained journalists with good professional skills to do the right job for the best interest of the nation.”

Olusegun Odebunmi, chairman of the committee, said it is important for the journalism practice to be monitored.

“As regards the pure regulation of the journalists, no doubt about it,” he said.

Odebunmi said the committee is working on such regulation, adding that this will identify the players in the industry.

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FG lists Diezani’s Bras As Part Of Forfeited Items For Sale

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The federal government has listed personal effects like bras and waist trainers as part of the list of assets forfeited by Diezani Alison-Madueke, former petroleum minister.

Diezani had fled the county shortly before former President Goodluck Jonathan handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

She is alleged to have stolen $2.5 billion from the Nigerian government while she was minister — an allegation she has denied.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has since commenced a process to extradite her.

The federal government has gained forfeiture of Diezani’s properties located in Banana Island Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, including 18 flats and six penthouses.

Other properties listed include 125 wedding gowns, 13 small gowns, 41 waist trainers, 73 hard flowers, 11 suits, 11 invisible bras, 73 veils, 30 braziers, two standing fans, 17 magic skirts, six blankets, one table blanket and 64 pairs of shoes.

The federal government has begun the process of screening 613 independent valuers expected to manage the sale of the assets permanently forfeited.

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