The marriage of convenience between the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and estate surveyors may collapse, as the Abuja headquarters of the agency is threatening to take the land economists to court for questioning its alleged breach of professional practice.
Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) had accused the FIRS management of flouting provisions of extant laws in Nigeria, particularly the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria Decree No. 24 of 1975 (as it was then known) now CAP E13 LFN, 2007.
In the publication signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Charles Ebiai, the institution said the agency erred in the appointment of a non-estate surveying and valuation company to carry out valuation of corporate properties in FCT, Abuja and other major cities in Nigeria for the purposes of tax assessments.
The body argued that it is only registered estate surveyors and valuers that are empowered to undertake valuation of assets in Nigeria by the provisions of Section 16 of the said law. NIESV totally condemned “ this grievous error on the part of the management of FIRS” and request for the immediate reversal of the afore-mentioned contract.
“We put to notice all relevant authorities responsible for Public Procurement in Nigeria and the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) to call to order the management of FIRS to reverse this illegal procurement process in line with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Act,” he said.
But in swift reaction, FIRS in a letter to institution through its Director, Legal Services Department, Mr. Ike Odume, demanded an unqualified apology and a full retraction of the publication as well as issued a notice to challenge the publication at the expiration a 14- day ultimatum.
FIRS termed the publication ‘scandalous, libelous and highly unprofessional’, noting that the institution maligned the agency and asserted ignorantly in the said publication. It said the organization is not under any obligation to appoint the body as valuers.
His words: “We wish to state without equivocation, that FIRS is not under any legal obligation to use members of the institution for the purpose of obtaining information or data on corporate properties for tax assessment and collection. Unarguably, there is no law that compels the FIRS to engage members of the institution for the purpose of identifying, tracing and obtaining information on taxable corporate bodies and their assets in Nigeria.
“We also wish to place on record, that the powers of the FIRS to appoint whoever it considers fit and proper to provide data and information on taxable corporate bodies and their assets for the purpose of preventing tax evasion and fraud is not filtered by the provisions of the section 16 of the Estate Surveyors and Valuers (Registration) Act which you heavily relied upon.
Odume said: “The fact that the FIRS in 2016 appointed members of the institution exclusively value properties in FCT does not translate to a right to dictate to the FIRS, the manner of performing its statutory functions of tax assessment and collection.
“Clearly, the Section 12(4) of the FIRS Act, provides that the service may appoint and employ such consultants, no agents to transact any business or to do any act required to be transacted or done in the execution of its functions under this Act, and this particular provision is not subordinated to the powers of the institution.”
An estate surveyor and Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Prof. Timothy Nubi told The Guardian, “NIESV by the Act of the Parliament is the only group of professional trained and licensed to put value on properties for various purposes including for taxation. The government of Nigeria spent and is spending billions of naira to train estate surveyors.
“ If a body that collect tax from our members will lead to killing the profession, it should think twice. It’s not only a question of law but moral. Little perversion here and there leads to the burden we are bearing today as a nation. Heads of government agencies should learn from the Prime minister of UK who had to apologize publicly for poor response to the victims of the burnt tower. In Nigeria, public servants are public masters.”
On the part of NIESV leadership, the battle line seems to have been drawn as the President, Dr. Bolarinde Patunola-Ajayi declined comment on the issue. Another estate surveyor, Mr. Sola Enitan hinted that the institution might consider taking its case to the public complaints commission, judiciary and National Assembly to seek redress.
He said: “The FIRS has done unconstitutional things, with respect to the valuation they have done in recent times, they stand in the breach of the Bureau of Public Procurement Act .”
“The letter is absolutely in a bad taste. I don’t think estate surveyors in Nigeria will take the matter lightly. It is unfortunate, this impunity of public servants in Nigeria. For somebody to say, you can use anybody to do consultancy work, we’re shocked.”