The Senate, Tuesday , declared that a whooping N447.42 billion fraud was perpetuated in the administration of import duty waivers, concessions and grants on rice and other imported foods by different Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs of the federal government and companies from 2011 to 2015.
The fraud as contained in a report approved by the Senate from its Ad-hoc Committee on Import Duty Waivers, Concessions and Grants, include N78billion in 2011, N128billion in 2012, N46billion in 2013, N87billion in 2014 and N106billion in 2r015 respectively.
Similarly, the upper legislators chamber said the six companies did not meet the criteria for granting the waivers.
The affected companies are Dangote Limited , N1.031billion, Kersuk Farms, N1.927billion, Bua Group, N3.704billion; Elephant Group, N1.501billion; Milan Group, N1.855billion and Golden Penny, N284, 602, 399.20
According to the committee chaired by Senator Muhammad Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), the fraud were carried out on agricultural imported items like rice and sugar as well as automobiles during the period under review.
The report was a follow up to a motion moved on the floor of the Senate in January this year, upon which the Ad- hoc committee was set up for thorough investigation.
According to Senator Aliero, former President Goodluck Jonathan-led federal government approved N106,711,892,098.14 as waivers, concessions and grants to private companies in 2015 alone.
He bemoaned what he described as large scale revenue leakages that robbed government of huge sums of money that would have been used for provision of infrastructural development and social services.
The committee chairman blamed the flagrant abuse of the process on lack of synergy among MDAs charged with the responsibilities of administering import duty waivers, concessions and grants.
Specifically, he named the Budget Office; Federal Ministry of Finance; Nigeria Customs Service; Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment; Nigeria Export Promotion Council; Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS as agencies responsible for the loopholes.
“Customs duty waivers and concessions have been used by the Budget Office of the Federation to entrench a very destructive patronage system to our economy, whereby very few operators in the economy were singled out for favours resulting to unfair competition in the system”, he noted.
On waivers granted to importers of rice during the period, Aliero said a total of 27 companies benefited from the import quota with total allocation of 1,434,658 metric tonnes.
He said four companies were yet to remit N23.603 billion to the Federal Government.
In the sugar sector, he disclosed that an estimate of N17.41 billion was lost to waivers, concessions and grants between 2011-2012 alone.
In the automobile sector, the committee report claimed that the then Minister of Industries, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga granted waivers to Coscharis Motors to import 897 vehicles in 2015, while Globe Motors got a waiver to import 714 vehicles in the same year.
In its recommendations, the committee identified 22 priority areas. It recommended that the system be strengthened by reviewing all relevant laws.
It further recommended that the Federal Government restructures and streamlines the functions and responsibilities of the Budget Office of the Federation in such a way that will prevent it from further abuses and excesses in the import duty waivers, concessions and grants process.
The committee urged the Federal Government to ensure that in the future, government contractors do not enjoy duty waiver benefits.
“The Federal Government should impose severe sanctions against companies found to have benefited from import duty waivers, concessions and grants, but at the same time engage in acts of economic sabotage by diverting some vessels to neighboring countries of Benin and Niger Republics for the commodities to be smuggled into Nigeria through land borders,” the report further recommended.
Accordingly, the Senate has mandated relevant agencies of government to recover N10.3 billion from six companies that benefited from rice importation quota in 2014.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, has denied claims that the probe is targeted at former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said lawmakers were after what was done wrong during the period under review and not the occupant of the office of the president.
Ndume also charged President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify efforts towards recovering the huge sums lost to abuse of waivers, concessions and grants.
He said if the money is recovered, it will help the government in meeting some financial needs.
The senate leader revealed that the various committees will monitor the progress made by the Federal Government in recovery the monies, adding that it will not be business as usual.

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