EFCC urged to probe CBN request for concession on Import Duty for Sonia Foods-

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) has been asked to
probe the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over concession granted a
private company for the importation of consumable items.

In a petition addressed to the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission, (EFCC), foremost anti-corruption group, Human and
Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) raised suspicion
of bias in the import concession granted Sonia Foods Ltd to import
Tomato Concentrate.

The petition signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, reported
allegations yet to be denied that the Governor of the Central Bank of
Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, through a letter dated the 16th June 2020 to
the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, requested for
concessionary import duty of five percent and waiver of levies of 35
percent and $1500/ton on imported tomato concentrate for Sonia Foods Ltd
for two years.

The group said the governor made the request to the Minister appealing
for the Minister to advise the Controller General of Customs and
Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service accordingly.

Citing widespread media reports, HEDA said Sonia Foods is a company
allegedly owned by one of the governor’s relatives, Nnamdi Nnodebe.

“It was also conveyed in the report that the CBN Governor allegedly pads
his pockets through his cronies by sabotaging all policies of the
Nigerian Government against food importation. For instance, exclusivity
for his friends being sole importers of powdered milk into the country
under the guise that they are investing in setting up cattle ranches
which is reported to have resulted in the explosive rise of prices of
powdered milk by more than 300 per cent”, HEDA said.

The group referred to another allegation against Emefiele that he gives
his business associates exclusive waiver to import thousands of tons of
maize to curtail maize shortage without a single ton given to the
Nigerian Poultry Association and without the knowledge of the Minister
of Agriculture or the approval of the President.

Suraju said sometime in 2017, Emefiele, through the Ministry of
Industry, Trade and Investment banned the importation of tomato paste
and powder, and increased the tariff on importation of tomato
concentrate among others from five to 50 percent in order to revive the
tomato sector and wade away importations.

HEDA said Emefiele’s action circumvents the law and potential breaking
of law and order and should be meted with immediate investigation and
proper sanctions.

“The allegations contravene the Code of Conducts for Public officers,
Part 1, of the fifth schedule in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria (As Altered), Rule 1 of the Code states that a
public officer shall not put himself in a position where his interest
conflicts with his duties and responsibilities” HEDA said.

He cited Section 9 of the Code which covers that a public officer shall
not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any arbitrary act
prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such an act
is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.

“The above allegations is in contravention of the code of conduct and
the said Governor of the apex bank holds a position that requires a high
level of transparency and accountability, however with the above
relayed, his accountability and transparency in the office is
questionable and should be probed with immediate effect” HEDA said.

The group requested the Commission to invoke its powers as vested in
Section 6(h) and Section 7(1(a)) of the Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (Establishment) Act 2004. Section 6(h) of the Act to probe
the CBN.

“Also, Section 7 (1(a)) of the Act states that the Commission has the
power to cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person,
corporate body or organization has committed an offense under this Act
or other law relating to economic and financial crimes. We write for an
investigation to be carried out into the above relayed allegations
against the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in relation to the
above allegations with aim of uncovering and ridding the nation of
corruption, abuse of office, sharp practices and breakdown of law and
order,” Suraju stated.

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