24 hours after it sent out a tweet directing account holders in financial institutions in the country to go to such institutions to complete a new “self-certification” form, the federal government of Nigeria this morning apologized to Nigerians, saying it had misinformed them about the new self-certification policy.
The Nigerian government had yesterday via its verified Twitter directed its citizens to fill ‘self-certification’ forms in their financial institutions like banks and insurance companies.
The tweet sparked outrage among the populace with many people asking what such certification or verification could mean after all the other registration processes already done by different government agencies.
In its tweet this morning in obvious reaction to the public outcry and condemnation, the government said the message contained in the notice did not affect all Nigerians as erroneously communicated on Thursday.
In a subsequent tweet on Friday, the government apologised for misleading Nigerians, saying, “We apologize for the misleading tweets (now deleted) that went up yesterday, regarding the completion of self-certification forms by Reportable Persons”, saying that the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS would make further clarifications.
And that is exactly what the FIRS did a few minutes later, and it stressed that the directive was not for all bank customers. The Revenue Service said that the form is required to be completed by customers of financial institutions who maintain accounts in countries and tax jurisdictions other than Nigeria.
FIRS explained that the Self-Certification form is basically to be administered on Reportable persons holding accounts in financial institutions that are regarded as “Reportable Financial Institutions” under the CRS (Common Reporting Standard).
It declared: “Reportable persons are often non-residents and other persons who have residence for tax purposes in more than one jurisdiction or Country. Financial Institutions are expected to administer the Self Certification form on such account holders when information at its disposal indicates that the Account holder is a person resident for tax purpose in more than one jurisdiction.”
Yesterday’s offending government tweets that drew the ire of the public, particularly on Twitter and other social media platform as well as on radio and TV stations had been pulled down by the government this morning but it said:
“This is to notify the general public that all account holders in Financial Institutions (Banks, Insurance Companies, etc) are required to obtain, complete and submit Self – Certification Forms to their respective Financial Institutions.”
“Persons holding accounts in different financial institutions is required to complete & submit the form to each one of the institutions. The forms are required by the relevant financial institutions to carry out due diligence procedures in line with the Income Tax Regulations 2019.
“The self-certification form is in 3 categories: – Form for Entity – For Controlling Person (Individuals having controlling interest in a legal person, trustee, etc) – Form for individual.
“Failure to comply with the requirement to administer or execute this form attracts sanctions which may include monetary penalty or inability to operate the account. For more enquiries visit @firsNigeria website (http://firs.gov.ng) for more details.”
The understanding of many Nigerians was that the government was again trying to collect biodata of citizens when they had already gone through several procedures for such data collection which seems to make government agencies look like they are working at cross purposes and cannot harmonise all collected data into one national database.
Some had wondered and are still pondering why biometrics captured for the following purposes cannot be harmonized or shared in the case of visa applications:
- BVN – CBN/BANKS
- VOTER’S CARD – INEC
- DRIVER’S LICENCE – FRSC
- NATIONAL ID CARD
- SIM CARD REGISTRATION
- SIM CARD CONFIRMATION
- INTERNATIONAL PASSPORT – IMMIGRATION
- BANK’S KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER, KYC
- WAEC & JAMB REGISTRATION
- UNIVERSITY ID
- INSURANCE DOCUMENTATION
- CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION, CAC, REGISTRATION
- TAX IDENTIFICATION, TIN – FIRS
- HOSPITAL REGISTRATION
- VISA APPLICATION
Many commentators asked how the government expected citizens to go for an exercise that would involve crowding and queueing for long period of time in this COVID-19 era.
The last may not have been heard of this self-certification as more clarification will be needed to ensure that everyone is carried along in the process of implementing the policy as enunciated by FIRS.
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.