Contrary to allegations that the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, might have granted waivers to Olams Nigeria Limited amounting to the tune of N3.5billion, the minister yesterday denied granting such waiver to any importer.
Nigerian Pilot had earlier reported that the minister on Monday failed to appear before the ad hoc committee investigating the alleged fraud and evasion of import duties by some importers in the country.
Some of the importers were alleged to have exceeded their import quotas as well as refusing to pay their duties under a federal government import policy targeted at encouraging local production of rice.
Chairman of the ad hoc committee investigating the alleged abuse and evasion of import duties payment, Hon. Leo Ogor, had expressed surprise that the minister shunned the hearing in spite of being duly invited.
According to him, “This hearing was sequel to a resolution of the House mandating the ad hoc committee to investigate alleged fraud, abuses, evasion of import duties by rice importers.
“The minister does not have the powers to allocate rice import or production quota to any company and then waive duties because the corresponding revenue involved is for the entire federation, which consists of the three tiers of government.
“The minister should stop deceiving himself, thinking that he acts for every tier of government.”
But at the resumed hearing yesterday, the minister told the committee pointblank that he never granted waiver to any company to import rice.
Adesina, however, explained that it was only the President that could give such waiver.
“I did not give waiver to anybody. It is only the President that can grant waivers. I challenge anybody with such claims that I granted waiver to any company to come forward or forever remain silent,” Adesina stated.
He recalled that in a letter dated December 12, 2014, he stated that any company that exceeded its quota allocation should pay into the country’s treasury.
The minister hinted that when they started the rice policy, they had in mind to protect the local industries and wondered why he should be accused of sabotaging the policy he had championed.
Adesina stated that the rice policy made it mandatory for any importer of rice to pay 10% duty and 60% levy, while investors are obligated to pay 10% duty and 20% levy.
Former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mike Andoakaa, who is into large scale rice farming, lamented that local rice producers in the country were not encouraged because of the attitude of some importers.
Andoakaa called on federal government to look into the issue with a view to sanctioning defaulters.
He, therefore, threatened to go to court if the interest of the local producers were not protected.
Shortly before the hearing was adjourned indefinitely, Ogor reiterated that the House would do everything possible to save the local industries from these reckless importations that are killing local production.
He further directed that other approval in terms of rice importation should be suspended.

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