NIGERIA lost N447,451,296,687.87 in revenues due to import duty waivers and concessions between 2011 and 2015, a report by a Senate ad-hoc committee said yesterday.
The ad-hoc Committee on Import Duty, Waivers, Concessions and Grants, which probed President Goodluck Jonathan administration’s import duty regime, said there were large-scale revenue leakages that robbed the government of huge sums of money.
The money, it said, would have been used for the provision of infrastructure and social services.
Its chairman, Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central), said in 2011, revenue loses through waivers, concessions and grants amounted to N78,489,941,114.74.
The committee added that in 2012, the sum rose to N128,538,453,758.99 and in 2013, the government lost N46,056,265,355.78.
It said in 2014, it was N87,654,744,360.22. But in 2015, it increased to N106,711,892,098.14.
The Senate adopted the 22 recommendations of the committee as contained in its 77-page report.
It asked the Federal Government to take steps and recover the appropriate import duty from the beneficiaries of the 2014 rice import quota because they did not meet the criteria for granting waivers.
The beneficiaries of the wrongly granted waivers included Dangote Limited (N1,031,038,848); Kersuk Farms (N1,927,800,000); Bua Group (N3,704,126,328); Elephant Group (N1,501,627,680); Golden Penny (N284,602,399.20), Milan Group (N1,855,263,312) – all totaling N10,304,458,203.
The report added that in the rice sector, Olam International Limited, Stallion Group/Popular foods, Milan Nigeria Limited and Ebony Agro Nigeria Limited exceeded the rice import quota for 2014.
The document said the revenue due to the Federal Government as a result of the excess import by the four companies was valued at N23,603,479,402.44.
It noted that Ebony Agro has a sister company, Tara Agro, which was given 21,000 metric tonnes of rice, but not yet utilised.
Part of the recommendations adopted by the Senate said institutional problems bedevilling the system should be tackled through review of relevant laws like the Custom and Excise Management Act, Nigeria Export Promotion Council Act and Export Act CAP118 of 1986.
The report, among others, added that the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, should restructure and streamline the functions and responsibilities of the Budget Office of the Federation in such a way that it would prevent it from further abuses and excesses in the import duty waivers, concessions and grants process.
“The Federal Government should in line with international best practices, take appropriate steps to come up with clear-cut policy on import duty waivers, concessions and grants that is transparent.
“The current patronage system that hampers fair economic competition and performance should be stopped,” the report said.
The upper chamber said “the Nigeria Customs Service should only accept bank indemnity and not corporate indemnity to avoid future loss of revenue to the government”.
It asked the Federal Government to impose severe sanctions against companies found to have benefited from import duty waivers, concessions and grants, but at the same time engaged in acts of economic sabotage by diverting some vessels to neighbouring countries of Benin and Niger Republics for commodities to be smuggled into Nigeria through the land borders.
Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki hailed the committee for a job well done.
Saraki asked the Federal Government to act swiftly to recover the funds as recommended by the Senate.
He noted that appropriate sanctions should be meted to offending firms, saying that it was saddening that what some companies could not contemplate in their mother countries, they brazenly perpetrate in Nigeria.
The Senate President asked relevant committees to follow up the report to ensure its implementation.
Senate Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, who also spoke on the report, described it as a landmark discovery.
Ndume noted that in these days of anti-corruption crusade, no effort should be spared to recover the needed funds for the provision of social amenities.