By Cecilia Ijuo
The Senate Joint Committee on Customs and Marine Transport as part of its investigation into alleged over N30 trillion revenue leakage in the import and export value chain has begun the quizzing of over 60 companies.
The Chairman of the joint committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, at an investigative meeting with of some the companies on Tuesday in Abuja, said the committee would do anything to recover the funds.
He said the companies would be invited in batches.
Other companies invited to the Tuesday meeting are CCEC Nigeria Ltd, China Export Ltd, CFAO Group, Chi Ltd, Bhojsons Ltd, Bharat Ventures Ltd, and Boulos Group.
Others are African Wire and Allied Ltd, Admiral Overseas Nigeria Ltd, CKS International Ltd, Abyem-Diva International Ltd and Aarti Steel Nigeria Ltd.
While decrying the level of complicity in the import and export value chain in the country, the lawmaker said the National Assembly would ensure that measures were taken to stop the corruption.
“This is a continuation of the investigation that is ongoing and we have now started interfacing with the various companies that are directly involved in the infractions that we identified in the course of our investigation.
“Most of the companies have no evidence to show that our position is not correct.
“So it is our hope that working together whether you are from the executive arm, judiciary or the legislature, we must acknowledge the need for us to protect our national interest.
“We must grow this economy. Over the years we over relied on oil revenue.
“The only way to rescue the economy from the present state is to expand our sources of income by strengthening the non-oil revenue earnings.
“The companies have pleaded to come back on Tuesday, and then we will invite the Nigerian Customs Service to issue necessary demand notice to all established cases.
“Then the companies will make payments into the federation account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),’’ he said.
On why the investigation had lingered for long, Uzodinma said it was in different stages.
He said the committee had interfaced with the commercial banks, collecting banks and the various agencies of government.
According to him, the meeting with the committee was meeting with the companies for the first time.
“It won’t be out of place to give them one week to get back to us. We will do this to satisfy the doctrine of fair hearing and if there is anything they have to say to the contrary, they will have the opportunity to defend themselves.
“We do hope that after the session, government will be able to earn more money,’’ he said.
The chairman said with the success achieved so far, the committee would do its best to bring the investigation to conclusion in no distant time.
He said the committee had already identified about 60 companies whose infractions were within the range of N10 billion and above after which we will move to the next batch.
On insinuations that the committee refused to work on the budget of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), the lawmaker said it was a non-issue.
“I don’t want to join issues on the pages of newspapers discussing my official assignment.
“This is a joint committee mandated by Senate to investigate revenue leakages and so far we have done very well.
“All I can say is that the management of the NPA has been confronted with some allegations and they are duty bound to defend them and say what they know. What they don’t know they should say they don’t know,’’ he said.