Reps query Okonjo-Iweala over import duty waivers

The House of Representatives has mandated the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to produce a detailed report on the exact amount of money Nigeria lost to import duty waivers between 2011 and 2013.

She was also directed to provide the full names of the beneficiaries; what the waivers were used to import; and the justification for granting such duty exemptions.

The directive was contained in the 50 questions on ‘state of the economy’, which the House Committee on Finance handed over to the Coordinating Minister of the Economy during a session with the committee in Abuja shortly before the Christmas break.

The committee was worried over the Federal Government’s commitment towards the anti-corruption war and the dwindling non-oil revenues as a result of the duty waivers approved by the minister.

The question on waivers was number 15 on the list, where the committee asked: “How much exactly has been the amount of money lost in government revenue as a result of import duty waivers in 2011, 2012 and 2013?

“In your opinion as the Minister of Finance, who oversees the economy, what are the implications to the country’s economy? What efforts have you made to stop this waiver policy, which is distorting the economy?

“Our non-oil income has dropped in 2013, a case where increased tariffs on various items effectively reduced importation to zero in some sectors.

“However, those items now find their way into Nigeria through our borders. Does it make any sense to increase these tariffs when we have such porous borders? As an example, officially, Togo imported more rice this year than Nigeria.”

Under question number 16, the minister is to explain why the Federal Inland Revenue Service plan to engage foreign consultants to collect tax for the agency, beginning from 2014.

The minister is to respond to the questions within three weeks.