The Senate ad-hoc Committee on Import Duty Waivers on Monday accused two foreign companies, Messrs Stallion Group and Olam International, which are involved in rice importation into the country, of owing Nigeria N44bn as import duties on 457,000 metric tonnes they imported since May 2014.
The panel stated this when the representatives of the two firms appeared before it to answer their connection with the “flagrant abuse of rice waivers’ policy in the country.”
Chairman of the committee, Senator Adamu Aliero, demanded full payment of the money owed by the foreign firms, insisting that “Nigeria would not fold its hands and watch the huge debt swept under the carpet.”
He said: “There is no way the government will ignore this kind of money. We have to ensure that this money is collected and deposited into the federation account.”
Aliero further claimed that the comanies imported rice into the country without paying waivers, off-loaded it into their warehouses and refused to pay required duties when asked by the Nigeria Customs Service.
He noted with concern that while the Nigeria Customs Service confronted Stallion Group with payment demand notices, the firm opted to drag NCS to court.
He also accused the company of exceeding the quota given to it to import 157,000 metric tonnes of rice, saying it imported 457,000 metric tonnes in excess of its required quota.
But while defending the action of his firm, Executive Director of Stallion Group, Harpreet Singh, claimed that their mission in Nigeria was to ensure that the country was self-sufficient in rice production.
He also said the firm had planned that the nation is saved from the global scarcity of the commodity.
He also claimed that Nigerian borders were porous and that former President Goodluck Jonathan granted the approval on fiscal policy on rice production on May 26, 2014.
According to him, the Ministry of Agriculture opted to flout the tenets of the policy by giving quotas to “non-existing millers and investors who have no connection with the policy while existing investors were left blind.”
He claimed further that the Stallion Group’s investments in Nigeria were not giving jobs to foreigners but to Nigerians.
He said his company had lost millions of Naira to activities of smugglers as a result of porous borders.
Also speaking, Olam, through his spokesperson, Ade Adefeko, claimed that it had the largest rice farm in Africa and that it has been operating in Nigeria in the past 35 years.
He argued that given its long period of business operation in Nigeria, the company would not consider short-changing the nation.
According to him, Olam was seeking a legal opinion on the matter, saying whatever counsel it is given, it will be duly followed.