Emefiele, Tax Havens and the Suppressed Facts, By Haliru Yakub



There is a new kid on the block. It is called the #Paradisepapers.And those selling it are doing all they can to  maximize the gains  what they perceive as the impact of the leaks thereof.

In case you have not seen it. Oh, sorry! it is not open to all of us, only the chosen few have access to the treasure trove of data.And only those so selected can dish out what is therein. We are all at the mercy of the chosen ones.

In Nigeria, only Premium Times is among the chosen ones. In one of its report  the online newspaper gave an insight into  the inner recesses of #Paradisepapers thus: “The leaked 1.4 terabyte data, now infamously dubbed Paradise Papers, contains 13.4 million records and is no doubt one of the biggest leaks in history.

“For 12 months, more than 380 journalists from 96 media organisations in 67 countries pored over the gigantic data, which cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 to 2016. PREMIUM TIMES is the only Nigerian media organisation involved in the investigation.

“More than 120 politicians and country leaders, in nearly 50 countries as well as hundreds of business people across the world were identified in the record as users of offshore entities.”

Because we all cannot see the original data, it is actually difficult to comment on them.It is like passing comment after a man has been sentenced to death by a  secret court.We are now simply bystanders  only lapping up what has been dished out by the chosen one.

It is all about those allegedly involved in tax avoidance  by owing accounts in offshore tax havens. But, even from the little we can read from Premium Times, it is clear the purveyors are out to just castigate those accused of tax evasion  through their alleged business affairs  in offshore tax havens.

In fact, the way the reports have been churned out by those who have further lifted the stories afterward, I mean the slant suggests that some interests are determined to use the #paradisepapers to resume their repeated but failed  attempts to target and oust some public officials .

Two prominent  and most strategically placed Nigerians, in my view, mentioned in these leaks so far  include Bukola Saraki,Nigeria’s Senate President and Mr Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank f Nigeria ,CBN governor.

They are both accused of tax avoidance  schemes  in offshore tax havens.Saraki has issued a statement denying breaching any law.

Emefiele, in his typical taciturn manner has not issued any release on the matter, but lawyers of the companies allegedly linked to him in the past have spoken.They have clearly said the CBN governor  did no wrong.He even resigned a long time ago from  the controversial companies in question

If that is the cas ,why the repeated attacks? The only answer may be that some people have found the paradise papers  as another opportunity to hit back at the CBN governor. In all of this,  Iam not blaming Premium Times,In fact, we should commend their efforts so far, but the  editors need to check the slant of their stories, which seeks to be judgmental  rather than presenting the facts alone. But has  anyone of those mentioned so far contravened the law? What will Nigerian government do?

Actually, governments and stakeholders worl wide are reacting to the paradise papers. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the  mention of the Queen of England has sparked calls for a probe.

In Nigeria, the minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has also spoken.She said government will investigate the issues raised so far.But she also identified the fact that the probe may be dead on arrival when she told reporters  that tax avoidance schemes are legal.She added however  that it was only tax evasion that  was illegal.

My take: those who are taking on Emefiele should back off because a few facts are self evident: All evidenceso far suggest that  he has merely  carried out legitimate business in the past. Even more,  he  chose to quit  when he felt it was necessary.The latest pressure being mounted on Emefiele through the media only fits  into the gameplan of those who want Emefiele out of his current seat.

Even before the Paradise Papers, Emefiele’s patriotic CBN policies especially the one insisting on continued ban on the import of 41 items have enraged some powerful people. Even more,his idea not to float the naira has been a source of agony for a few special interests.Emefiele believes floating the Naira will kill the Nigerian economy.

Well, to  those who think they may have found the sucker punch for dealing a final blow on Emefiele, my simple plea, is tarry awhile; since the federal government has indicated it will take a look at the reports.

For now,stop distracting Emefiele.His interventions in the forex market has saved  the Naira and, among others, helped to steer the economy out of recession.He deserves the support of all well meaning Nigerians.