By Israel Afolabi
End seems not to be in sight over the issue of the alleged tax default by the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, as the Osun government insisted that the university was owing N1.84 billion as against N384 million claimed by the institution.
It would be recalled that the state government had last week Wednesday sealed off the university over the alleged non-payment of tax to the tune of N1.84 billion, but the university management has come out to deny owing such amount, saying, its outstanding tax liabilities was a sum of N384 million only, being under-deduction from staff salaries for the period of 2015 and 2016 for PAYE.
However, at a press conference in Osogbo on Wednesday, Osun Internal Revenue Service (OIRS) has said that the decision to seal off the university was justified, saying though, the university had been unsealed following interventions from eminent Nigerians who prevailed on the state to accept the little offered.
Speaking at the conference, the Special Adviser on Tax and Revenue Matters to the Governor, Barrister Olugbemiga Akano said, “We are here today to set record straight and maintain our earlier position on tax issues involving Obafemi Awolowo University. The figure of N384m being claimed by the authority of OAU as the outstanding tax liability for 2015 and 2016 is misleading.
“OAU was unsealed, upon the intervention of eminent Nigerians, most especially Femi Falana, SAN that prevailed on the state to accept the sum of N25m offered by the university as deposit for further negotiation on repayment plan for the balance and the state is left with no other choice than to respect them by removing the seal.
“As an alumnus, I am in pain that the only institution I can point at in the whole world as my own is involved in this ridiculous issue of tax under-deduction and juggling of figures, even when the system of modern and civilized governance calls for strict compliance by all taxable adults and organisations with tax laws”, he stressed.
He emphasised that the amount of N384m the OAU claimed as being owed was the balance they were supposed to pay for the year 2006-2014 audit as at the time the representatives from the office of Accountant-General of the federation came into the matter for further investigation on outstanding liability of Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies due to the state as at 11th December, 2016.
“As at 4th May 2018, the amount of N287,815,947.07 has been their outstanding in respect of 2006-2014 contrary to the OAU rejoinder of N384,000,000.00 it claims”.
Barrister Akano also maintained that the sum of N1.8bn claimed by the state is a report of painstaking audit of the books supplied by the institution itself to the government’s crack team of auditors.
According to him, “Relevant tax laws allow anybody or institution to raise objections or appeal against an audit report within a limited time frame which the university failed to so do. It is too late in the day for the university to rely on a letter written by a third party to peg their liability to such a mind-boggling ridiculous sum of N384m meant for 2006-2014 liability for 2015-2016.
He also insisted that the OAU owes the state government of Osun the sum of N1.844,770,939.45 plus N5m outstanding, which make it to be over N2 billion tax default.
The OIRS boss then warned every tax defaulter, be it individual or organisation that failure to remit their taxes and levies would leave the board with no other option than to explore all legal means on them.
He called on other organizations affected by the efforts of the government and others who have not been reached to quickly show up for the resolution of the issues involved.