Following frequent bouts of disagreement between Nigeria Postal Services (NIPOST) and the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) over Stamp Duties collection, Rotimi Asher had a chat with NIPOST Deputy Zonal Manager, Corporate Communications, Valerie Bolanle Ekeogu. In the interview that took place recently at NIPOST office, Lagos, Valerie Ekeogu speaks on what NIPOST is doing to mitigate the onslaught with digitalisation, and the implications of the recent announcement that finally gave NIPOST the right to collect stamp duty charges.
Rotimi Asher: There is the strong perception that digitalisation has surprisingly helped NIPOST by growing new and prosperous lines of businesses in the last few years. Can you highlight what has been happening in this area?
Valerie Ekeogu: It is true. We do not have a situation where many people come to post personal and individual letters anymore. Most of the mails we have now are business and e-commerce parcels. It may surprise you to know that people still queue to collect their small and e-commerce parcels. There is no way you buy things online or order things abroad without collecting them physically. It is the aspect of the physical collection that NIPOST has keyed into profitably. The irony here is that the emergence of digitalisation became a strong instrument of growth for us in NIPOST.
Rotimi Asher: Apart from this, are there other services through which your organisation is generating more revenue?
Valerie Ekeogu: We have a bulk of post services which we render to customers with large volumes of mail, including notices of AGMS, share certificates, dividend warrants, examination slips, religious literature, bank statement, and specialised journals. We also have Parcel Post which refers to mail items weighing between 1Kilogramme and 50km which are not prohibited by law. Once you wrap and you want to send it both within or outside the country, NIPOST will send the parcel for you and it can be traced.
We have other mails like Digital Addressing System (DAS) and Addressing Verification System (AVS). That is why we are talking about digitalisation. We were using postcode before to identify addresses, but now NIPOST has gone digital. We can use DAS to know your address and the postcode of your geographical location. Anywhere you go, just put NIPOST DAS, map it, put your name and address, it will give you your postcode. With that postcode, you can do any official transaction, especially with financial companies.
The AVS which is the Address Verification System is for you to verify if somebody is living in a specified address or location. It is like the popular KYC — Know Your Customer. The banks and other customers are doing it. If you want to know if someone lives at a particular address, you can come to NIPOST, we will verify for you. We have a database where everything is stored and many organisations are keying into it.
Rotimi Asher: What other things have NIPOST been doing to remain relevant in this age of digital revolution?
Valerie Ekeogu: I hinted earlier that we have our e-commerce section where we have parcels from abroad. Many people buy things online and ship them through NIPOST to Nigeria. As a result of our membership of the Universal Postal Union, many countries send their mail parcel through us because we are fast, secure, and can be trusted. We also partner with other courier companies to deliver.
If you also want to send money to unbanked areas, you can do it through our Financial Service department. The Federal Government is using it as financial inclusion to unbanked areas. When you send it through our financial service, you will be given a code. Send the code and the amount of the money to the person in the remote area. All he needs to do is to go to our post office with the code and collect the money. It is as simple as that.
Rotimi Asher: People need to be aware of all these services even as a Federal Government agency. So what would you say NIPOST is doing to sensitise the public?
Valerie Ekeogu: We are running a campaign now to inform people and create awareness about our products and services. We are all out to sensitise Nigerians to patronise NIPOST. We are fast, secure, and our prices are affordable. We are trying to prove that as a Federal Government Agency, we have improved. We have been here for over a hundred years and we are still standing. That shows we have something to offer to the public.
Rotimi Asher: In the last few months there was this recurring disagreement and controversy between NIPOST and FIRS over who should collect stamp duties. What is the true situation now?
Valerie Ekeogu: The fact is that since August 2020, there was a controversy between NIPOST and FIRS over who should collect stamp duties after NIPOST reacted to claims by the FIRS that it is operating an illegal stamp duty account.
However, NIPOST denied the accusation describing it as false and a statement meant to mislead the public. After series of disagreements, the Minister of Communications, Ali Pantami came out to inform Nigerians that it is NIPOST that can collect stamp duty charges from FIRS.
That development brought to an end the three years of disputes between the two Federal Government agencies on who should rightly collect stamp duties on behalf of the Federal Government.
The Postal Service Act Cap N127 had empowered NIPOST to produce and sell adhesive stamps on behalf of the Federal Government for various purposes. So, these stamps are available in all NIPOST offices across the country. People will have no problem getting the stamps.
Rotimi Asher: What would you say are some of the implications of this final clarification on stamp duties?
Valerie Ekeogu: NIPOST will now push for the effective enforcement of the law in this area. Sequel to reverting stamp duties to Nigerian Postal Service, it will soon be a criminal offence for anyone who fails to fix at least fifty naira adhesive stamps on all receipt evidencing transaction of one thousand naira and above.
Section 89(2) of the Stamp Duties Act CAP S8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, requires that every receipt, voucher, contract note, agreement, etc. given by any person in acknowledgement of goods purchased or services rendered should be denoted by an adhesive postage stamp; while section 92 of that act makes it a criminal offence punishable on conviction if any person: (a) Gives a receipt for any good/service up to N1,000 but not duly stamped or (b) Refuses to give a receipt duly stamped where a receipt will be liable to duty or (c) Upon the payment to the amount of N1,000 or upwards, gives a receipt for a sum not amounting to N1,000 or separates/divide the amount paid with the intent to evade duty.
Receipt in acknowledgment of goods purchased and services rendered must indeed be denoted by postage stamp as evidence of payment. For example, If you paid rent to your landlord, it is expedient that the receipt he gives must be denoted with fifty naira adhesive postage stamp.
The reason is that if there is a problem and the tenant is taken to court, the stamp will be evidence that the rent was paid at the stipulated date. Sometimes, a landlord may allege that a tenant did not pay rent for a particular period but if the tenant has a receipt denoted with a stamp, it can be tendered and accepted in any law court.
Likewise, for landed property, we have seen instances, where there have been court cases on landed property, and the court will ask contending parties to bring the receipt as proof, the stamp on it is the main evidence of payment. So, each time you are engaged in a transaction that involves the items mentioned in Section 89(2) of the Stamp Duties Act which also include rent, lease, or sales of landed property, you must insist on collecting receipt denoted by at least fifty naira stamp and giving out a receipt not duly stamped tantamount to a criminal offense punishable on conviction.
Rotimi Asher: From all indications, it appears many Nigerians are not aware of this new development and the criminality in issuing documents without stamps. When it will take effect?
Valerie Ekeogu: We want to create enough awareness first because Nigerians need to be fully informed on this new development. We need to let people know that, henceforth, the adhesive stamp must be fixed on all receipts evidencing a transaction of N1,000 and above, to make it a legally acceptable document. Failure to do this can attract prosecution that may lead to six months or even up to a year imprisonment; depending on the circumstances involved.
Categories: Critical Conversations