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Lagos 2015: Group demands Ambode and Agbaje’s tax status

The Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, a coalition of anti-corruption organisations, has demanded from the Lagos State government the tax status of Akinwunmi Ambode and Jimi Agbaje, gubernatorial candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, respectively.

In a Freedom of Information, FOI, request to the state’s Finance Ministry, Thursday, the group also demanded information on the authenticity of a Letter of Appreciation publicized by Mr. Agbaje on Thursday, purportedly written to him by the ministry.

“We look forward to receiving these documents promptly and, in any event, within 7(seven) days of the receipt of this application as provided for in the Freedom of Information Act, 2011,” the group stated in the letter signed by Olanrewaju Suraju, its chairman.

Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State Governor, and Mr. Agbaje had been engaged in a war of words after the governor accused the latter of tax evasion.

Speaking at the 8th Annual Stakeholder Taxation Conference in Lagos, on Wednesday, Mr. Fashola had branded Mr. Agbaje a “tax evader,” accusing his pharmaceutical company, JayKay Pharmacy, of failure to pay four years of Land Use Charge to the government totalling N1.6 million.

“I know that you have to vote next month but look at that candidate that would need to take over from me and be careful of who to vote for,” Mr. Fashola, a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, had told the gathering.

“You will remember that in 2007, he (Mr. Agbaje) claimed that he was in DPA (Democratic Peoples’ Alliance) and later crossed to PDP.

“You know that he manages a pharmacy called JayKay Pharmacy, located at 9 Randle Close, Apapa. His pharmacy has not paid Land Use Charge for 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.”

Mr. Agbaje responded by denying personally owing the state a penny and called the governor’s “fresh outburst” a futile attempt at mudslinging by a group about to face a formidable opponent.

He added that he should not be held liable for the tax liabilities of Jaykay Pharmacy because he was no longer the one running the company.

The PDP candidate further released a Letter of Appreciation purportedly written to him by the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Ayo Gbeleyi, and dated 30th January, 2015 (tomorrow). In the letter, the commissioner stated that ‘a review of the payment records from 2011’ showed that Mr. Agbaje has been “consistent with the payment of Land Use Charge.”

The letter which was published on Mr. Agbaje’s website on Thursday, 29th January, 2015, was dated 30th January, 2015.

CSNAC said that the discrepancy in the date raises a question on the authenticity of the letter.

“In light of these, CSNAC is hereby requesting, in accordance with the Section 2, 3, 4 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011:

– The authenticity of the said ‘letter of appreciation’ sent to Mr. Jimi Agbaje from the Commissioner for Finance.

– The tax status and evidence of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

– The tax status and evidence of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode.”

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