By Agbenu Oyale, Abuja
The House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, and Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, to give a comprehensive report of duty waivers granted since 2014.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon Oluwole Oke, issued the notice during the investigative hearing into the financial activities of ministries, departments and agencies, as well as private companies including Sapien Contracting Nigeria Limited, IMB West Africa, Total E&P, Total and Vixa Pharmaceuticals Nigeria Limited, which enjoyed capital allowances and import waivers from successive administrations.
The lawmakers who expressed grave concern over the country’s dwindling revenue expressed optimism that the country can be self-sufficient in revenue generation if all leakages are blocked.
According to the documents submitted to Committee by Sapien Consulting Nigeria Limited, the company failed to remit requisite taxes to relevant tax authorities for the sum of N131 billion realised in 2016, N177 billion in 2017, N296 billion in 2018.
The House gave the directive after quizzing a private company, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, that works as a contractor for various oil companies.
The lawmakers were concerned that the companies that Saipem was contracted to import for, got waivers under circumstances that seemed controversial.
Worried by the development, the Committee resolved to investigate the lopsided 2-19 per cent capital assets of Sapien Consulting Nigeria Limited which was in favour of foreign companies.
Hon. Oke, also said the benefiting companies should also cause appearance over the issue.
“The Minister of Finance and DG Budget would speak to these documents. Both of them should cause appearance. Let us ask DG Budget and Minister of Finance to give us a comprehensive brief on duty waivers they have issued in the period under review.
“We thought we would be seeing waiver letters to Saipem but rather we are seeing them to different companies you are working for. Give them two weeks. Also, invite the beneficiaries of the duty waiver because we are only meeting their contractor here. So we can also research if the items qualify for a waiver,” Oke said.
The House also summoned the Nigeria Customs Service to cause appearance when a company, Vixa Pharmaceuticals, revealed they were importing pharmaceutical products on zero duty.
“Are we saying these pharmaceutical products cannot be produced in Nigeria? Are we not killing local industries? When you have other companies that are producing in Nigeria, you are importing at zero duty. It means you are killing the local business.
“Clerk, invite the Customs, let them come and speak to us why duty on pharmaceutical goods are zero. Let them come and tell Nigerians why local pharmaceutical companies in the country are being taxed and somebody is bringing goods in without duty,” Hon Oke said.