Saraki demands return of N30bn rice waivers

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Senate Presi­dent, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yester­day urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to recover N30 bil­lion waivers on taxes and duties that would have been collected on impor­tation of rice.


Senate Presi­dent, Dr. Bukola Saraki

The Senate president in­sisted the money must be paid back into governmen’s coffers.

He said this when he met with the Central Bank Gover­nor, Godwin Emefiele and top management of the apex bank yesterday.

Senator Saraki said the chamber would compel the Ni­geria Customs Service (NCS) to act on the matter on resump­tion of plenary.

He said: “The recent policy you (CBN) have taken on some selected items, particu­larly key ones that have to do with agricultural products like rice, chicken, palm oil, and even in the areas of textiles, our policy is that we, after listening to you, believe that they are steps taken in the right direc­tion to try to help our economy in the area of import and export substitution.

“But one of the observa­tions we also made was that the Central Bank alone cannot make it all work in this area. We must also show the big sig­nals in things that will bring out the success of this policy. For example, you brought to our notice, the issue of the waivers on taxes and duties, especially on rice, which is about N30 billion, that were granted to certain companies, this money must be paid back to the Fed­eral Government.

“We have mentioned this to the governor of the Central Bank. It will be our resolve, too, after we resume to get the Nigeria Customs to act on this.

“We have told the governor of the Central Bank as wel; he should also go and collaborate with customs to ensure that this N30 billion comes back to the government coffers, so that we will be seen to be doing things to make this policy successful.

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“Secondly is the issue of smuggling, because no matter how good this policy on import substitution looks, if smug­gling can still be going on the way it is now, this policy will not be successful.

“That area as well, especial­ly the big smugglers that are well known, it is time that ac­tion is taken to stop it. Thirdly, all other items that fall under agriculture that we can pro­duce locally must be reviewed.

“We also stressed the need to also continue to work close­ly with the CBN by meeting regularly to review the policy so that we can look at the ef­fectiveness of the policy.

“The key issue is also fis­cal discipline, we cannot de-emphasise it. The CBN must know those agencies of gov­ernment that had in the past not been sending revenues straight to the consolidated revenue purse and you must play a role in ensuring that this is done be­cause a lot of agencies are used to this act of impunity and it is time that we must play a role that these agencies bring the money back.”

Before going into a closed-door session with the lawmak­ers, Emefiele said the nation’s external reserves rose from $29.1 billion to $31.89 billion as at July 7.

He attributed the rise to President Muhammadu Buhari blocking the leakages, adding that it was expedient to stop rice importation as several tonnes of locally produced par­boiled rice were unsold in the nation’s rice market.

“Reflecting the sharp fall in oil prices and speculative for­eign exchange activities, the external reserve declined from $37.3 billion in June 2014 to $29.1 billion at the end of June of 2015. I am delighted to note that with the strong efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to block all leakages as well as the vigilant demand manage­ment strategy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, we have seen our foreign exchange reserve begin a gradual recovery.”

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