Senate yesterday disclosed that N585billion was lost by the Federal Government between 2011 and 2014 to waivers granted on importation of rice and other agricultural products.
Debating on a motion on “Indiscriminate Use and Abuse of Waivers for Rice Importation,” the lawmakers urged the government to stop the waiver forthwith.
The motion was sponsored by Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim (APC Kwara South). The Senate also mandated the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko, to ensure that all import duties due to government are immediately recovered.
The Senate also setup an ad-hoc committee chaired by Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) to look into the policy regime and carry out holistic review with a view to determining the revenue lost under the waiver regime.
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, in his lead debate, said the abuse of the waiver scheme has eroded government’s rice production policy by allowing the importation of the commodity above approved quota.
According to him, a recent Senate interaction with the CBN revealed how importers overshot their quota and consequently owed the government import duties running into billions of naira.
He argued that instead of importers paying 70percent duties and levies to the government, they are granted waivers and thereby deny Nigerians legitimate income.
Ibrahim claimed that the government lost N71billion on duty waivers to importers of rice, palm oil, energy equipment, steel and vegetable oil annually and recalled how the government gave import duty waivers to 10 rice and palm oil importers amounting to N150billion in 2011.
Supporting the motion, Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto North), said findings on waivers had shown that N585billion worth of waivers were granted by the government between 2011 and 2014.
Gobir argued that if this sum was shared among the 36 states of the federation, each of the three senatorial districts in a state will have N5.3billion which he said was enough to provide 5,000 jobs for Nigerians.
Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) said recent findings showed that over N400billion had been granted as waivers.
He compared the issue of waivers to plea bargain, which he said was a good idea when conceived but has been abused.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South), said waivers on rice, cement, palm oil, among others should be removed, adding that local content should be enhanced while the Nigerian economy is protected like that of Malaysia.