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FG Rice Policy: Adesina Lacks Power to Waive Import Duty – Reps

Leadership newspaper — May 5, 2015

The House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Rice Imports Quota and Duty Payments has said that the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has no power to grant duty waivers to rice importers under the current rice policy of the federal government.
The committee chairman and deputy leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor, made the disclosure yesterday during on-going investigative public hearing being conducted by the Ad-hoc Committee on alleged fraud, abuses and non-payment of import duties by some rice importers and investors in the country.
The lawmakers also resolved to invite Adesina to appear before the public hearing to tell the committee what he knows about the flagrant violations of rice import quota and illegal waivers granted to some importers, who refused to pay import duties on their excess importations.
The committee therefore questioned the powers of the minister to grant such waivers on the basis of encouraging investment and job creation when in actual sense, the practice is discouraging local investors who don’t even have the capacity to utilise their allotted quotas.
“The minister lacks this power, he shouldn’t even deceive himself. He need to come and explain to us, Nigerians want to hear and rice millers want to hear,” Ogo said.
Earlier in his welcome address to declare the session open, Ogor stated that the public 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 in the country.
“The aim is to uncover fraud and expose the endemic corruption in the importation of rice with a view to stemming the tide and boost employment generation as well as strengthen the nation’s depleting foreign reserve.
“The minister has no reason not to be here because the Ministry was duly served the invitation. I see no reason why people would be invited to a hearing that’s for the benefit of the people and will not turn up.
“You are a servant of the people just like we all are. What we are doing here is for the benefit of our nation’s economy. So, before the end of the hearing, we are hoping to see people from the Ministry come in, otherwise we might be forced to make some very strong pronouncements,” he declared.
One of the concerned importers, Olams Nigeria Ltd, who has failed to pay duty accruals for exceeded importation quota to the tune of over N3.5billion, the company’s representative, Mr. Anil Nair, told the committee that as the largest farm owner on the African continent, it couldn’t have grown its business by disobeying the rules, insisting that there was no directive asking the company to pay import duties for exceeding its quota.
According to Nair, Olams will gladly pay what is due to it as import duty or levy if the government require it to do so, a development which confirmed that the minister actually waived such duties without due diligence.
“Olams farm is the single largest farm on the continent of Africa with the capacity to import 243,747 tons of rice on 10% levi and 20% duty. If you look at all the rice value chain, we have made up to date payment of duties and levies as applicable for which we made presentation previously.
“If we are asked to pay for the excess in importation, we will oblige and pay without any hesitation,”, Nair said.
The Customs delegation led by ACG Adeoye Ajade had told the Committee in a position paper that import duty defaulters were communicated to after the rice policy was reviewed in July, 2014.
“Olam import was over 245.000 metric tons with excess quota amounting to over N3.5billion which is the duty liability arising from that importation.
“Given the review of the policy, rice millers tried to make false declaration of duty values by under-declaring their actual import volume. So the policy review now came with dual rate of 10per cent duty raise and 20 per cent levy,” Ajade said.


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