By Favour Nnabugwu
The House of Representatives’ Ad-Hoc committee had summoned Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and the Minister of Finance and Mr Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development over the alleged N21 billion waivers granted some rice importers.
Hon. Leo Ogor, chairman of the Ad-Hoc committee, explained that the investigative hearing on ‘Rice import quota and duty payments’ was geared towards uncovering “fraud and exposing the endemic corruption in the importation of rice with a view to stemming the tide and boosting employment generation as well as strengthening the nation’s depleting foreign reserves.”
Ogor noted that Nigeria remains the second largest importer of rice globally with an annual consumption requirement of about 6 million metric tons while its domestic supply is estimated at 3 million metric tons yearly, with a shortfall of 3 million metric tons of milled rice per year.
The lawmakers also frowned at the alleged lapses in the administration of the quota and duty payable on excess importation, querying the powers of the minister of agriculture to grant such waivers on the basis of encouraging investment and job creation to the detriment of local investors.
Ogor lamented that the gross abuse of the Federal Government’s fiscal policy measures on rice under which the incentives were granted has led to duty evasion; retroactive quota allocation by the ministry; and quotas being skewed in favour of speculative investors who have no real investment on ground to show for their interest in rice.
“The minister does not have the powers to allocate rice import or production quota to any company and then waive duties because the corresponding revenue involved is for the entire federation which consists of the three tiers of government. The minister should stop deceiving himself thinking that he acts for every tier of government,” Ogor noted.