By Gabriel Omoh
Nigerians, who have not been following trends in Nigeria’s social economic affairs, were stunned by the purchase of armoured cars for the Minister of Aviation and Managing Director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mr. George Uriesi. Those who are aware of the capacity of the public servants to help themselves to the best of life at the expense of the majority are not moved by the current out cry. George Uriesi through the minister had pulled wool in the eyes of Nigerians by a grand design of what he called airport re-modeling. As the project took off and it appeared that some work was being done at the airports, the stage was set for the duo to carry out their grand plan of helping themselves with the best.
The so-called airport re-modeling has turned out to be a wrong move as most of the equipment that are needed for a functional airport are not in place. Ordinary air conditioners at the arrival and departure lounge of the airport are an eye sore to anyone who has used the airport in recent time.
The airport remodeling is a topic for another day.
The major revelation from the on-going probe is the fact that the federal government is in the know of this importation. Going by the fact that waivers granted to Coscharis for the clearance of vehicles meant for the national festival speaks volume. Waivers are granted with the consent of the president. The way and manners waivers are being granted for consumption and not production has left the Nigerian economy prostrate with lots of Nigerian youths unemployed by those who swore to defend and protect every Nigerian. Their personal welfare and security is more important to them than that of the generality of Nigerians.
In recent months, waivers granted to a few highly placed individuals by the Federal Government of Nigeria to import refined vegetable oil, soya bean meal and related products, have put local vegetable oil and other associated manufacturers on the verge of total extinction. Already, all the oil mills in Kano, including Nigeria Oil Mills, Kano Oil Mills and PS Mandrid located in Bompai Industrial Estate, have closed down with over 20,000 direct and indirect jobs lost.
In Lagos, Jos and Port Harcourt, where there are also oil and related mills, while some are just managing to survive, others are already making arrangement to close down and begin direct importation. One of the by-products of vegetable oil mill is used for animal feed by poultry farmers. The irony of this pathetic situation is that while the Federal Government openly and publicly speaks of its resolve to encourage local industry, in secret and under closed door, it gives waivers to political associates and cronies to import and make cheap money, undermining local production.
As if this abuse of position and power by a few Nigerians is not bad enough, it was quite amusing when the Deputy Comptroller General of Customs, DCG Mannasseh Daniel Jatau, who represented the Customs CG, Abdulahi Dikko, at the House of Representative probe of N225 million car purchase said a N10million waiver given to Lagos State government as waiver to purchase vehicles for Eko 2012 sports festival was used to clear the cars. Jatau said, “The N10million import duty payable on the 300 vehicles meant for Eko 2012 festival was used to clear the armoured cars.” He explained that since the waiver was still effective, the Customs had no choice than to allow the cars cleared from the ports. Jatau also noted that the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, endorsed the clearance of the armoured cars.
The question is, if the National Security Adviser endorsed the clearance of the cars, what is the government looking for by setting up a panel. Panel to do what? Is the panel to confirm the involvement of the Minister of Finance or the NSA, an already known fact? The big question is if the waiver granted to Coscharis to clear the 2012 vehicles for the Lagos National Sport Festival was what it used to clear the most “valued armoured cars” for the Minister of Aviation, how did it clear the 300 vehicles for the festival? Nobody is interested in that aspect of the question begging for an answer. How many of such waivers have been granted to him and under what conditions? These so-called rich businessmen are the problem of the economy. Elsewhere, the tax authorities will scrutinise Coscharis books, but not in Nigeria where the rich are above the law.
The armoured vehicles were cleared because there was an authorisation letter from the Minister of Finance. But in the industry,y waivers are not supposed to be transferable by best practice, but this is Nigeria where any thing goes. When shall Nigeria be healed from this impunity by the few in power and position of authority? When will they stop lording it over all of us and pretending to be serving the rest of us.
Wait a minute, the Customs claimed that “At the clearance point, all the requirements of the law were met and we are under the Ministry of Finance, if you give us till ——” The Customs Service was compromised, it can not exonerate itself from the mess. A copy of the letter that authorised the Customs said, “I am directed to refer to your letter dated 23rd June 2012 in the above subject matter and to convey the approval of Mr. President and Commander in Chief to the Lagos State Government for the waiver of Import Duty, Value Added Tax ( VAT) ETLS, CISS and other port charges in respect of the importation of 300 units of BMW, Ford, Land Rover, Range Rover, Lexus, Mercedes, Escalade, Jaguar and buses ( Petrol/Diesel) for use during the 18th National Sports Festival ( EKO 2012) to be imported through Messrs Coscharis Motors Nigeria Limited, as indicated in the duly attached list.”
When did the importation of two armoured cars for the Ministry of Aviation become the 300 vehicles for use during the 18th National Sports festival? How many more of such waivers are in the wrong hands for dubious purposes? The House should not waste the nation’s resources probing a minute aspect of a well thought out rip off of the Nigerian people, it should probe the entire process of securing waivers for whom and for what purposes. .