BY AHURAKA ISAH and SOLOMON AYADO,
Senate, yesterday, said it will issue warrant for the arrest of chief executive officers of the affected firms in the alleged complicity in N30 trillion revenue loss probe for failing to honour its invitation.
Senate who read riot act to the alleged recalcitrant firms, listed CEOs of British American Tobacco Company, CCEC Nigeria Ltd, Dana Group, African Wire and Allied Ltd, Admiral Overseas Nigeria Ltd and Aarti Steel Steel Nigeria Ltd.
Others are Gagsel International, Fries Land Capina, Etco Nigeria Ltd, Encounter Ltd, Edic Chemicals and Allied Distributors Ltd, Don Climax Group, De United Foods.
Senator Hope Uzodima (Imo), the Senate Joint Committee chairman on Customs, Excise and Tariff and Marine Transport, who gave the warning at an investigative meeting with some of the firms yesterday in Abuja, added that senate directed that they must make themselves available before the panel today or be arrested.
The refusal of the firms to honour the invitation, he said amount to disrespect for the institution of the National Assembly and would not be tolerated, noting that of the 30 firms invited between Tuesday and Wednesday, only 14 appeared before the committee.
According to him, the CEOs are expected to cut short whatever engagement they have to honour the invitation in view of the magnitude of the investigation.
“It is only in Nigeria that the Senate will invite an entity for an interactive session, particularly in a case that bothers on investigation, financial mismanagement, infractions and the company will be complacent.
“The companies will not be willing to come or sometimes send junior officers.
“I have directed and we are working with security agencies, that any company that is invited and has something to explain and refuses to appear, we will issue a warrant for such persons to be arrested.
“We are giving them the final opportunity to appear and if they fail, we will issue a warrant.
“In this investigation we are working with the Nigeria Police Force.
“This is because we are using their facilities to process some of our data so that the information we will present to the public will be information with high integrity that will not be questioned by anybody.”
“We have directed that they must come tomorrow, Thursday (today) unfailingly,’’ he said.
Addressing the firms who were present at the meeting, Uzodinma said they would be given documents arising from the investigation carried out by the committee to study and comply.
He said the documents specified the various forms of infractions carried out by each of the firms involved in the import and export value chain.
“We have put everything in different categories and for category one it is unutilised Form M. You applied for Form M and approval and allocation were given.
“But rather than import with the allocation, God knows what happened because you did not do that.
“Then pre-arrival assessment report that was issued. You abandoned them yet you took your goods. We do not know how you took the goods away and the money is still open in the data base.
“Then Single Goods Declarations (SGDs) which you people did by yourself then abandoned and yet collected your goods.
“These are all indicated in the documents we have handed over to you.
“So, if there are such legitimate approvals, we want to see a copy otherwise we will assume that they were not cancelled in which case we will be expecting you to make payment.
“Then classification. We have cases where a pre-arrival assessment is carried out and a particular item is classified under a particular HS (Tariff Handbook) Code.
“When you now go to SGD if it is a classification of 35 per cent you see that you declared five per cent instead of the 35 per cent that was issued to you.
“So, we have worked out the difference unless there is evidence that what you shipped were no longer what came to Nigeria which we doubt.
“Then wrong classification is another category. That one deals directly with those bringing vehicles with reverse gear and you declare them as CKD.
“For instance Dag Motorcycle Industries Ltd, when you bring in tricycle which has reverse gear, there are cases where they are classified wrongly.
The lawmaker expressed concern that most approved Form Ms were not given to genuine users, leading to increasing exchange rate.
He said the committee would ensure that Forex was given to genuine importers to strengthen the Naira against foreign currencies as well as improve employment opportunities among other benefits.
He stressed that the committee was extending its investigation to the operation of Free Trade Zone Agreement.
Uzodinma said, “Most of you who have been importing in the name of free trade zone. Under that policy you know you have to do 30 per cent value addition.
“But we have identified all the free trade zones that imported finished goods and those goods did not even get to the free trade zones.
“The goods ended up in the various ware houses in Apapa and when they make the money, because there is no documentation they have surplus Naira.
“With the surplus Naira, they in turn buy dollar at any rate and in the process kill our local manufacturers who really want dollar to be able to do their businesses.’’
The Joint Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff and Marine Transport had been mandated to carry out a holistic investigation into alleged N30 trillion revenue leakages in Forex and the entire import and export value chain between 2006 and 2017.
The committee has so far met with all indicted commercial banks as well as government agencies and is currently meeting with the companies alleged to be involved in the corruption in the system.