Waivers: Senate unravels N447bn fraud

Waivers: Senate unravels N447bn fraud

Senate on Tuesday unravelled N447.42 billion fraud allegedly committed by the immediate past administration on import duty waivers, concessions and grants.

Specifically, the Senate said the infraction was committed between 2011 and 2015, by the federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

Breakdown of the amount showed that while the Federal Government lost N78,489,941,114.74 in 2011 through waivers, concessions and grants to different private companies engaged in importing goods to the country, N128,538,453,758.99 was lost in 2012, N46,056,265,355.78 in 2013, N87,654,744,360.22 in 2014, and

N106,711,892,098.14 in 2015.

Chairman, Senate Adhoc Committee on Import Duty Waivers, Concessions and Grants, Adamu Aliero said the report was a follow up to a motion moved on the floor of the Senate in January this year.

According to Aliero, the former President Jonathan approved N106,711,892,098.14 as waivers, concessions and grants to private companies between January and May 2015, before handing over power to President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.

The lawmaker decried large-scale revenue leakages that robbed government of huge sums of money that would have been used for provision of infrastructure development and social services.

He blamed the flagrant abuse of the process on lack of synergy among MDAs charged with the responsibilities of administering import duty waivers, concessions and grants.

MDAs indicted include Federal Ministry of Finance, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment, Nigeria Promotion Council (NPC), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

He said: “Customs duty waivers and concessions have been used by the Budget Office of the Federation to entrench a very destructive patronage system to our economy, whereby very few operators in the economy were singled out for favours resulting to unfair competition in the system.”

On waivers granted to rice importers, Aliero said a total of 27 companies benefited from the import quota with total allocation of 1,434,658 metric tons, and four companies were yet to remit N23.603 billion to the Federal Government.

In the sugar production industry, an estimate of N17.41 billion was lost to waivers, concessions and grants between 2011 and 2012 alone.

In the automobile industry, the report claimed that the then minister of industries, trade and investment, Olusegun Aganga granted waivers to Coscharis Motors to import 897 vehicles in 2015, while Globe Motors got a waiver to import 714 vehicles in the same year.

The committee identified 22 priority areas where it recommended that the system be strengthened by reviewing all relevant laws.

It suggested that the Federal Government restructured and streamlined the functions and responsibilities of the Budget Office of the Federation in such a way that would prevent it from further abuses and excesses in the import duty waivers, concessions and grants process.

The committee urged the Federal Government to ensure that in the future, government contractors do not enjoy duty waiver benefits.

“The Federal Government should impose severe sanctions against companies found to have benefited from import duty waivers, concessions and grants, but at the same time engage in acts of economic sabotage by diverting some vessels to neighbouring countries of Benin and Niger Republics for the commodities to be smuggled into Nigeria through land borders,” the report further recommended.

Accordingly, the Senate has mandated relevant agencies of government to recover N10.3 billion from six companies that benefited from rice importation quota in 2014.

According to the report, the six companies did not meet the criteria for granting the waivers.

Meanwhile, leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, denied claims that the probe was targeted at Jonathan, stressing that lawmakers were after what was done wrong during the period under review and not the occupant of the office of the President.

Ndume charged President Buhari to intensify efforts and recover the huge sum lost to abuse of waivers, concessions and grants, saying, “if the money is recovered, it will help the government in meeting some financial needs.”

He revealed that the various committees would monitor the progress made by the Federal Government in recovering the money, adding that it would not be business as usual.

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