Senate begins probe of waivers granted by Jonathan’s administration

The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution, asking the Federal Government to henceforth stop all waivers on rice importation as well as other agricultural products.

The upper chamber equally mandated the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele and the Comptroller General of Customs, Dikko Abdullahi to ensure that all import duties due to government were recovered urgently into the nation’s treasury.

Senate President Bukola Saraki while ruling on the motion sponsored by Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South) and exhaustively debated upon by the parliamentarians, also set up an ad-hoc committee chaired by Senator Adamu Aliero to investigate the waivers policy of the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonatahn.

The Aliero committee according to Saraki, will look at the waiver’s regime and simultaneously carry out an holistic review with a view to determining government revenues losses.

The committee was also mandated to look into all issues relating to waivers, concessions and grants with a view to determining full government revenues in relation to this policy.

Ibrahim, while presenting his lead debate, said the flagrant abuse of the waiver scheme had severely eroded Federal Government’s rice production policy by allowing importation of huge quantities of the commodity in excess of their approved quota.

According to him, a recent Senate interaction with the CBN management revealed how importers had overshot their quota and consequently owing the Federal Government import duties running into billions of naira.

He further argued that instead of importers paying as huge as 70 per cent duties and levies to the Federal Government, they were granted waivers and thereby denying Nigerians legitimate revenues.

He added that instead of punishing defaulting importers, the President Goodluck Jonathan administration allegedly rewarded them with fresh waivers to import more in its twilight.

Ibrahim stressed that the Federal Government lost about N71bn on duty waivers to importers of rice, palm oil, energy equipment, steel and vegetable oil annually.

He recalled how the Federal Government gave import duty waivers to 10 rice and palm oil importers amounting to N150bn in 2011.

Ibrahim lamented that the Nigeria Customs Service, which ought to enforce compliance with duty policy at the borders, had failed to live up to its responsibility.

Senator Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto North) said findings on waivers had shown that N585billion worth of waivers were granted by the Federal Government between 2011 and 2014.

Gobir noted that if the amount was shared among the 36 states of the federation, each of the three senatorial districts in a state would have N5.3billion, which he said was enough to provide 5,000 jobs in various states.

He called for a total end to waivers on agricultural products.

Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) said recent findings by his non-governmental organisation showed that over N400billion had been granted as waivers in recent times.

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