Senate Asks FG To Revoke All Import Waivers On Rice, Agricultural Products
The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution urging the Federal Government to revoke all import waivers on rice and other agricultural products and ensure all outstanding revenues are collected.
In a two-prayer motion moved by Sen. Rafui Ibrahim (APC Kwara South), the Senate set up a 9-man committee to look into all waivers, concessions and grants.
The committee, headed by Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), is charged with the responsibility of reviewing all such related policy to recover all government revenues and block leakages.
In his remark, the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki, said that the Ad hoc Committee was hinged on the determination of the new administration to cut revenue leakages.
Saraki said that there was an urgent need to protect the nation's agriculture to ensure self sufficiency rather than relying on importation.
He expressed displeasure at the impunity with which people who owed government billions of naira continued to do businesses free as if “nothing will happen.”
“This too must stop; this is the first ad hoc committee that will be set up for this kind of thing and the committee will not stop until every penny is recovered,” he said.
He, therefore, charged members of the committee to be relentless in discharging their function.
Earlier, some senators who made contributions advocated complete removal of all waivers, concessions, and grants on all products and commodities that could be manufactured locally.
Sen. Philip Aduda (PDP FCT) gave example with cement production in the country and said that for any local production to thrive, importation of such products must be stopped.
He argued that waivers should only be given on products that are required but not produced locally.
“There is an urgent need to review the granting of waivers, especially on finished goods, whatever is produced in Nigeria should not be granted waivers,” he said.
Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia-South) supported the motion, and noted that waivers were good at the inception but should have long been stopped.
He said that the removal of waiver should serve as a starting point in doing away with all government policies that have hampered local manufacturing.
Abaribe recalled that when the Federal Government banned importation of furniture, there was huge investment in the local industry but regretted that ban was lifted shortly after.
Sen. Dino Melaye (APC Kogi-West) advocated a drastic measure on the motion, alleging that there was collaboration between the Customs Officials, Ministry of Finance and importers.
He said importers currently owing the government should not be allowed to clear their goods in the ports until they paid in full what they owed.
Sen. Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto East) expressed fear that if allowed to continue, waiver on rice import alone would cost Nigeria N2.4 trillion by 2015.
Gobir argued that the money saved from the waivers could be used to establish industries in the country to employ over 5,000 Nigerians in every state.
He also advocated that waivers should only be granted on products that are not being produced locally.
Sen. Ali Wakili (APC Bauchi South), a former Comptroller of Customs Service, vindicated the service on the alleged collaboration, saying that the service merely implement the policies on waivers.
He alleged that issuance of waivers, which began in the 80s became rampant under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when party faithful were flagrantly issued waivers.
The Senate thereafter adjourned plenary to Tuesday, Aug. 4 after which it proceeded to inaugurate all committees that had been set up during the week.
The committees are Senate Selection Committee, Rules and Business Committee, Ethics and Privileges Committee, ad-hoc Committee on Publicity and ad-hoc committee on waivers.