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Senate Orders Refund Of N30bn Rice Waivers

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

Senate yesterday demanded that about N30 billion waivers on taxes and duties that were granted to some companies for importing rice into the country be refunded back to the Federal Government. This is even as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disclosed that Nigeria’s external reserves declined by $8.2 billion between June 2014 and June 2015.

But the apex bank, however, announced that Nigeria’s external reserves as at Tuesday, July 7, 2015 stood at $31.89 billion. Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, ordered the refund after a meeting with the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and his team, who were at the National Assembly to share their understanding and view on the recent economic development in Nigeria and the world. Saraki also said that the Senate, upon resumption from its break on July 21, would get the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) act on this.

“We must also show the big signals in things that will bring out the success of this policy. For example, you brought to our notice the issue of the waivers on taxes and duties, especially on rice, which is about N30 billion that were granted to certain companies.

This money must be paid back to the Federal Government. “We have mentioned this to the Governor of Central Bank. It will be our resolve, too, after we resume to get the Nigerian Customs to act on this. Before that, we cannot be taking some of these top positions, while some people will get away, and will not pay what they are supposed to pay to government.

“We have told the Governor of Central Bank, as well, he should also go and collaborate with Customs to ensure that this N30 billion comes back to government coffers so that we will be seen to be doing things to make this policy successful,” Saraki said. Saraki lauded CBN’s recent policy on some selected items, particularly key ones that have to do with agricultural products like rice, chicken, palm oil and even in the areas of textiles.

He expressed belief that the policies were steps taken in the right direction to try to help the nation’s economy in the area of import and export substitution. He however, observed that the apex bank alone cannot make it all work. The Senate President, therefore, noted that smuggling must be seriously dealt with, if the policy was to be successful.

“Second is the issue of smuggling; because no matter how good this policy on import substitution looks, if smuggling is still going on the way it is now, this policy will not be successful. That area as well, especially the big smugglers that are well known, it is time that action is taken to stop it. “Third is that all other items too that fall under agriculture that we can produce locally must be reviewed.

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