Why we’re against Agricultural Development Fund bill – FIRS

By Haruna Salami

Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, says it is not in support of the National Agricultural Development Bill currently before the Senate because it is in conflict with the Nigerian Constitution and other extant laws.

The executive chairman of FIRS, Muhammad Mamman Nami disclosed this at public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in Abuja on Monday.

Nami, in reference to the request for memorandum from FIRS by the committee, said the National Agricultural Development Fund Bill, if passed into law, “is contrary to the spirit of natural tax policy which advocates a fewer number of taxes with a broader base”. 

He said it will “promote multiplicity of taxes thereby increasing the tax burden on commercial banks which are already complaining of being subjected to too many taxes at the federal, state and local government levels. 

The bill, if passed into law will create another tax industry at the federal level,which is not consistent with FIRS establishment Act 2007, Nami said. 

“The provision for the transfer of five percent of Petroleum Profit Tax into Agriculture Development Fund in the bill is in conflict with the Nigerian constitution which provides that all taxes payable should accrue into the federation account. 

“So, the transfer of five percent Petroleum Tax Profit and 50% duty payable on imported rice, wheat and sugar runs counter to fiscal federalism by reducing revenue accruable to the federation account to be shared among the three tiers of government of the federation.”

In addition, he said “the bill is contrary to Nigerian economic sustainability plan of 2020, which provides fiscal measures to support businesses in the light of COVID-19 pandemic”, adding, “it is contrary to the white paper of Orasanya report”, which recommended the pruning down of government agencies.

However, FIRS recommended that the Senate should advocate more funding of existing agricultural research institutes. 

“It will be better to appropriate funds through the budgetary processes than to set up multiple agencies” adding that “it should be in consultation with states and local governments to carry them along”.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Abdullahi Adamu told all the stakeholders present that agriculture is central to the economic diversification policy of government and called for ingenious ways to fund agriculture.

In all, the public hearing will consider three bills: National Food Reserve Agency Bill, Agriculture Research Coordination of Nigeria and the National Agricultural Development Fund Bill.

The Committee continues Tuesday for the consideration of remaining bill.