Seven agencies of the United Nations (UN) were on Wednesday indicted for tax evasion by the Borno State Internal Revenue Service (BO-IRS).
The seven agencies, according to the state’s revenue service, are the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The agency said that though the international laws regulating the operations of the UN system exempt them from paying tax as entities, it does not apply to their workers, especially the local manpower and contracting partners.
Mohammad Alkali, the executive chairman of the Borno revenue board, told journalists at a press conference on Wednesday that while other UN bodies “like the IOM have complied to the extant laws that compel Nigerian working for UN or foreign organisations to comply with the personal income tax laws, the aforementioned seven UN agencies had refused to comply despite all efforts put in to make them do the needful.”
The UN agencies, he said, “are mandated by the provision of the Personal Income Tax CAP P8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to remit to the state government what is known as PAYE and Withholding Tax for their staff and individual and enterprise contractors respectively.
“Other UN agencies and NGOs who are equally in large taxpayer category are already complying with the provisions of the extant laws as referenced above.”
Mr Alkali said his board had made a “series of concerted efforts and engagements…which culminated into forwarding of various correspondences to ensure that the listed organisations and agencies voluntarily comply with the relevant tax laws but to no avail.”
He said the BO-IRS was aware of the protocols restricting the humanitarian bodies from compelling workers to pay tax, “that was why we demanded them to furnish us with the raw data of their workers as well as individual and enterprise contractors for us to interface with them directly but to no avail.
“So, BO-IRS is left with no option than to employ legitimate means to compel them to do so. And we have already taken steps by serving the UN Agencies herein mentioned notice of seizure of properties which is due to lapse on 24th February 2022,” he said.
The agency said it would be relying on Section 68 of the Harmonised Revenue Law for enforcement using personnel of the Nigeria police and their internal enforcement team.
Mr Alkali noted that the state governor, Babagana Zulum, was aware of the situation.
“It was even the governor that encouraged us to liaise with the UNOCHA through his adviser on INGO affairs, Mairo Mandara, by writing to them, which we did repeatedly but the seven of them failed to comply”.
“They (some officials of OCHA) came to our office in June 2021 to ask for the details of what we wanted and after that, they went away and ignored us,” he added.
PREMIUM TIMES reached out to all seven agencies but only received a response from UNICEF alone.
According to Geoffery Njoku, a communications officer for the agency, ”we are UN, we do not pay tax. We pay to the UN… you should know that.”
Also, Christina Powell, public information officer of OCHA, in an email response to PREMIUM TIMES said, ”OCHA does not have a comment to give at this time regarding your query.”
However, some UN officials who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES in confidence, told this newspaper that the UN was in talks with the government and will respond officially in due time.
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