7 UN Agencies Accused Of Tax Evasion In Borno

Seven major United Nations agencies operating in Borno state, including OCHA and UNICEF, may lose access to their properties in the next 30 days for failing to pay taxes to the state government.

Seven agencies of the United Nations (UN) operating in Borno state, Northeast Nigeria, have been accused of tax evasion by the state’s Board Of Internal Revenue Service BO-IRS. 

The BO-IRS said, on Wednesday, that the seven humanitarian agencies include the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and the United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). 

The agencies are likely to have their properties seized on Feb. 24, 2022, after the expiration of 30-day of grace. Tax evasion is a serious offence not only in Nigeria but globally. 

According to the Borno revenue board, the humanitarian agencies refused to allow Nigerian staffers to pay the constitutionally sanctioned Pay As You Earn (PAYE). 

Chairman of the BOIRS, Muhammad Alkali, informed a press conference on Wednesday, at the Revenue House in Maiduguri that while other humanitarian agencies had complied, the seven organisations had refused to respond to all their demands. 

Alkali said the Board acknowledges that the UN bodies are international aid entities as well as their foreign expatriates are exempted from tax payment, “but their Nigerian staffs are to pay their PAYE and to withhold tax personal Income Tax Act CAP P8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

The Revenue board chairman said while other UN agencies like International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who are in the large taxpayer’s category, are complying, the seven mentioned more prominent agencies had continually ignored all communication sent to them for compliance. 

“The BO-IRS is not oblivious of the convention exempting UN agencies filing tax returns on behalf of their staff, individuals and enterprise contractors from paying on their clients’ taxes, but it is worthy to note that UN agencies are enjoined to respect and comply with the local laws of the land or in the state they operate, hence the reason the BOIRS is demanding the raw data of their Nigerian staff and individual contractors;  but all efforts to get these documents proved abortive,” Alkali said. 

He said BO-IRS was left with “no option than to employ legitimate means to compel them to do so.”

“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. 

Christina Powell, a communications officer at the Northeast Office of OCHA in Maiduguri, Borno state, told a HumAngle that they had received the information “but no comments for now as we are looking into it.”

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Abdulkareem Haruna

Abdulkareem Haruna is a Nigerian journalist who has provided extensive coverage of the Lake Chad conflict in north-eastern Nigeria for over a decade. A graduate of English Language with a Diploma in Mass Communications. He previously worked as an assistant editor with Premium Times and Leadership Newspaper. Haruna has a strong knowledge of the Northeast and follows the trends in the region closely.

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