Documents obtained by SaharaReporters from a source in the Nigeria Customs Service show categorically that Nigeria has lost well over one trillion Naira in revenue in the last three years alone, the direct result of import concessions or waivers issued by the Ministry of Finance.
Two weeks ago, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was asked by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance to present a detailed account of just how much money has been lost because of import duty waivers. The committee wanted to know who has benefitted, what was imported, and most significantly: why these waivers were granted.
The query was one of 50 the committee gave to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala following her 2014 budget presentation to the National Assembly, which she answered this week.
The committee said in a statement on Thursday it would conduct an exhaustive review of her responses, and probably ask her for more information. It will also call for memorandum on the state of the economy and the 50 questions from professionals, academics, civil society and all well-meaning Nigerians, to be be followed by a public hearing, before it presents its report on the true state of the economy to the Nigerian people.
The specific question asked of the Minister on waivers, Number 15 on the list, was “how much exactly has been the amount of money lost in government revenue as a result of import duty waivers in 2011, 2012 and 2013?”
In a release yesterday, Okonjo-Iweala indicated that Nigeria only gave out N170, 727,078,336 billion Naira (($1,067,727,148 billion) in total from the waiver system in the last three years. She further broke them down into sectors in an attempt to mask the true nature of the scam involved in the issuance of waivers.
However the documents obtained by SaharaReporters show clearly that as much as N1, 435,980,495,810 trillion ($8,975,998,164 billion) is involved. That is nearly nine times what she admitted to.
The over one trillion Naira lost in these agreements between the government and private enterprises favored hundreds of businesses, notably several Dangote Group subsidiaries, which benefitted to the tune of N26, 222,605,864 last year, and were the biggest beneficiaries of the 2013 period.
In 2012,the documents shows that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation benefitted the most, making the list at N77, 979,042,860, while in 2011 first place was held by Sopon Nigeria Ltd, which cost Nigeria N32, 773,467,146.
Coscharis Motors Limited, the company which supplied Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah with bulletproof BMW vehicles, has also benefited in the millions from the waiver scheme since 2011, costing the country N400, 099,570 million in 2011 and N698,427,424 in 2013. Records indicate the company imported a variety of items, including armored military vehicles. It is unclear why, and for whom it may have imported military vehicles, as the government normally imports such supplies directly.
Other significant beneficiaries include:
*.The Ministry of Environment, Bauchi, which bled national revenue by N155,606,247 for window “air conditioners” in 2013;
*.The Office of the Executive Governor of Ondo State, for N146,852,981 in 2013 for generator sets;
*.Creation Commercial Ventures Limited, which imported “cigarettes containing tobacco” and received an exemption costing the country N70,187,029 in 2013;
*.The Ogun State Accountant General’s Office, which imported “motorized tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” for N52,169,620 in 2013;
*.One Mr. Ifeanyi Emmanuel Ndianaefo and one Mr. Asimiyu Mohammed Salawudeen, for cast iron table, kitchen, and household articles costing N5,642,567 and N7,158,538 respectively in 2013;
*.The Rivers State Government, for N2,919,108 for “barbed wire and other fencing material” in 2013;
*.The Office of the Accountant General in 2013 for “wooden furniture” at a price of N2,098,553; and
*.One Mr. Ayotunde Aderoju, who imported a variety of “pot scourers”, “polishing pads”, and “gloves “costing Nigeria N2,035,569.
Numerous other state governments and individuals benefited from similar arrangements in the three-year period, including the office of the first lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Patience Jonathan though an NGO she runs known as the ” African First Ladies for Peace Mission (AFLPM)”, Inspector General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Bayelsa State government, the Minister of Police Affairs, the Nigerian Police Force, the Sokoto State Government, the Akwa Ibom State Government, and the Watchtower Society which is assumed to be of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Also of note was the listing of one Moghalu Maduakonam Madubugwu, who benefitted from an exemption that cost Nigeria N142, 679,096 in 2012. Recall that on January 23, 2013, Maduakonam was arrested at Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, en route to Dubai with $200,000.
Despite claims of transparency within the Ministry of Finance regarding the current import framework, the above exemptions and their resulting financial consequences were not disclosed in the reports presented by the Ministry on their site, or in the answers provided to the House Committee on Finance in their ongoing inquiry.
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