By Henry Umoru
The Senate yesterday threatened to ensure zero allocations for the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NCS, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, among others, if their heads fail to appear before its Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning to defend their agencies positions on the 2020-2023 MTEF/FSP.
Also threatened by the Senate are heads of revenue generating agencies, such as Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS; Managing Director, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC; Universal Service Provision Funds, USFP; Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas( NLNG); Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, OGFZA; Managing Director, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON; Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
Expenditure Framework And Fiscal Strategy Paper, MTEF/FSP after being duly invited. MTEF/FSP is Medium Term Expenditure Framework And Fiscal Strategy Paper.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Olamilekan Adeola, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos West, who issued the threat at the beginning of a five-day interactive session on the 2021-2023 MTEF/FSP in Abuja yesterday, said: “ The 2021-2023 MTEF/FSP was sent to the Senate on July 20 for consideration by President Mohammadu Buhari preparatory to the presentation of the 2021 Appropriation Bill.
‘’In line with the desire to achieve early passage of the budget to be in tandem with the January-December budget cycle, the Senate referred the MTEF/FSP to the joint Committee for consideration, even while members are on recess. ’Any head of agency that refuses to appear before the committee to defend figures it submitted as presented by the President to the Senate risks zero allocation in the incoming budget, among other penalties.”
The MTEF/ FSP) interactive session is aimed at opening more revenue sources to finance Nigeria’s N12 trillion budget for 2021.
Meanwhile, the Senate had called for full blown investigation on the contract entered into by the Ministry of Interior with Continental Transfert Technique Limited, CONTEC, for combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card, CERPAC, which has been robbing the nation of billions of Naira on yearly basis since 2007.
The Senate said it would summon the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, in its holistic investigation into details of a lopsided contract between the Federal Government and the foreign firm, Continental Transfert Technique Limited; grant of the company 72 per cent of accruable revenues from the issuance of “Residence Permit to expatriates.
The decision of Senate to investigate the contract agreement followed an alarm raised by the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Mohammed Babandede, that Nigeria was being ripped off by the current contract terms with Contec Global.
The Immigration boss, who appeared before the committee, also told the Senate that 15 million immigrants were in Nigeria, but noted that less than 20 percent of them are captured. He also revealed that expatriates engaged in what he described as Arrangee Marriages with Nigeria ladies in order to avoid the mandatory combined Expatriate Permit and Alien Card, CERPAC, fees by Nigeria as a measure to check abuse of expatriate quota and develop local content.
Recall that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Interior, signed the contract with Contec Global in 2007, with a sharing formula that allowed the technical partner to collect ($720), representing 72 per cent on every $1,000 paid for Residence Permit. The contract was, however, reviewed in 2019 with a 100% increase in the fees from $1,000 to $2,000); but still leaving Contec Global with a “Lion Share” of 55 per cent.
In the new arrangement, 33% goes to the Federal Government; 7% for the Nigeria Immigration Service and the remaining 5% for the Ministry. Speaking further, Babandede who told the Senate Panel that Contec Global had even taken Nigeria to a British court; asking to take over the NNPC Corporate Headquarters in Abuja and N8billion, said there was no justification for increasing the fee for Residence Permit, pointing out that the situation has forced expsrtariates to go into “arranged marriages”” with Nigerian ladies to avoid paying the exorbitant fees.
Babandede, who disclosed that the service generated its revenue from issuances of passports and Visas and control and entry of persons in and out of the country, said: “All these revenues are generated under PPP which was signed before the coming of this administration between the Ministry of Interior and technical partners.
“So the sharing formula of this PPP differs greatly but in general terms, this revenue is accrued in favour of the technical partners and government itself.” Babandede explained that immigration officers were not preventing CONTEC from collecting permit fees from expatriates.
‘’If there are cases where some NIS officers are blocking them, it is a good idea because CONTEC is not doing the country any good. Nobody should defend the company which took Nigeria to court and wanted to seize our properties, including our mission and NNPC building.
“They took us to the United Kingdom Arbitration Court where we were forced to pay N8 billion. As far as we are concerned, this company has no value for Nigeria.
“The company increased the permit rate to $2,000 and reviewed the sharing formula downward but the arrangement still favour them. Fifty five percent of the $2,000 is higher than the 72 percent of the $1, 000 they were collecting before. We have already petitioned the EFCC to explain our disapproval of the arbitrary fee hike.
“However the Ministry of Justice is doing something about it because there is no justification for the increment. The Nigeria Immigration Service is already discussing with the Ministry of Justice for necessary advice on the legal implications of the upward review of the resident permit fee from $1,000 to $2,000. The Ministry of Justice is already looking at the modalities to pull out of the arrangement.”