VASWANIS HAIL REPS' PROBE ON N50BN WAIVERS
BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN
LAGOS-The Vaswani brothers, owners of Stallion Group, have welcomed investigations by the House of Representatives into the alleged N50 billion duty waivers on rice imported by them.
Denying ever benefiting from any such waivers, the brothers, in a statement by their counsel, Mr. Kanu Agabi, SAN, said the probe by the legislators was an opportunity for the country to unravel whatever scam may have been committed in their name by some individuals.
They said they neither applied for nor were granted import waivers by the Federal Government or any other authority.
Agabi said: 'We write on behalf of our clients (Stallion Group/Vaswani brothers) to inform the appropriate authorities and the general public that our clients (Stallion Group/Vaswani brothers) did not apply for any rice import waivers and no import waivers were granted to them by the Federal Government or any other authority.
'Following the wrongful deportation of our clients from the country - an action which was quickly set aside by the Federal High Court on the ground that it was illegal and unlawful - our clients have been the victims of all sorts of lies and rumours aimed at scandalising them and tarnishing their image and reputation.'
He, however, noted 'fortunately, on every such occasion the truth has prevailed and our clients have been vindicated as investigations conducted by the Federal Government have confirmed the innocence of our clients.'
'In the past, falsehoods of the type, which the House is set to investigate, provided the platform for actions as extreme as the illegal deportation of our clients. The action of the House is worthy of commendation in that opportunity is now afforded for the accusers to come forward and justify, if possible, their false accusations, while our clients will be equally opportuned to know and to confront these false allegations with indisputable facts,' he said.
According to him, Stallion Group/Vaswani Brothers are a multinational group with presence in over 18 countries in many of which they have received several awards from governments and high commendation for their contributions to the growth of the economy of those nations.
'Our clients have been an integral part of the Nigerian economy for over forty years manufacturing and providing consumers with products of high quality at fair prices and employing thousands of Nigerians in their industries.
'The investments that our clients have made to encourage rice production within the country are unequalled. Their rice industries presently have a production capacity of 300,000 tons while work is ongoing to increase the capacity to 990,000 tons by next year. This is consistent with the President's commendable goal of achieving self-sufficiency in rice production and our clients dream,' Agabi said.
He noted that contrary to the notion that the Stallion Group/Vaswani Brothers undermine the Nigerian economy, they have been 'instrumental to aiding and facilitating local farming, production capacities for rice and are expanding in anticipation of achieving self-sufficiency.
A section of the media had on November 18, 2011 reported that the House of Representatives has opened an inquiry into alleged waivers granted to the Stallion Group/Vaswani Brothers totaling N50bn. That motion and inquiry was ostensibly prompted by allegations made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo against the Stallion Group/Vaswani Brothers.
The House in the motion titled 'urgent need to investigate the import waiver granted to the Vaswani Brothers (Stallion)' mandated its committees on agriculture, customs, finance and commerce to investigate the alleged import waiver of N50billion granted the Vaswani Brothers through their company (Stallion) on rice imported into the country.
According to media reports 'the lower chamber took the decision to forestall the adverse consequences which alleged indiscriminate import waivers granted to some companies on certain commodities by the Federal Government have on the economy and the people of Nigeria.'