The House of Representatives’ Committee on Finance has invited the Nigeria Customs Service, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Budget Office of the Federation to appear on Monday and explain issues surrounding the collection and appropriation of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, especially a two per cent Ports Development Levy.
The committee issued the summons in Abuja on Tuesday at the ongoing public hearing on the 2022-2024 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.
The Executive Secretary of the NSC, Emmanuel Jime, had decried that the main source of the council’s revenue, which is a quarterly two per cent of the total seven per cent Ports Development Levy amounting to N3.1bn was collected by the Customs and sent to the accountant-general’s office.
Jime, a former member of the House, said, “There is also the extra challenge we have. The agency responsible for the collection of that particular two per cent that is being given under the current arrangement is Customs.”
According to him, Customs after the collection, remits the revenue to the office of the accountant-general.
“It is the Customs that determines what amounts to percentage of the port levy. So, we’re not really involved,” he said.
Chairman of the committee, James Faleke, consequently directly the secretariat to invite those concerned for Monday.
“ES, we have to come back on Monday on this issue. Customs will be here. Budget Office will be here and the Accountant General Office to come – invite accountant-general’s office on the issue of collection by Customs,” Faleke said.
Jime also lamented that the NSC had been unable to access the one per cent charge on export and import since the council was established in 1978, noting that it is one of its statutory sources of revenue.
He said, “There is this statutory source of revenue: one per cent charge on export and import. Since Shippers’ Council was established, that particular source of revenue has never been accessed and I’m taking it up with the supervising ministry and it is also one area that I will ultimately be going to seek the support from the other side.”
Earlier, the committee turned back representatives sent by heads of various ministries, departments and agencies, insisting that their chief accounting officers must appear in person.
Faleke, while dismissing officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), among others, threatened that any head of MDAs who failed to appear before the committee would be sanctioned, while the agency would be blocked from getting government funding.
Also, the National Business and Technical Education, Nigeria Immigration Service, Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, who had their bosses in attendance, did not come along with the required documents detailing their capital projects.
The heads successively noted that the invitation from the committee indicated that it was an interactive session.
Faleke said, “Each time we call for MTEF consideration, it is expected that we look back to what happened in the last three years before going forward.
“We don’t need to write this down in black and white because you should know you are coming to defend MTEF, the procedure is very straight. The only difference in this one is that we’re looking at capital. So, it is a standard.
“For all other agencies, we are saying that we are looking at all the projects as submitted that make up your capital projects the way you submitted it to budget office. The same you submitted you bring it to us.”
Meanwhile, the committee resolved to place the Nigeria Export Import Bank on status enquiry to determine the true state of its accounts, with an allegation of eroded N50bn share capital of the bank under the past management teams.
After examination of the bank’s financial report as presented by its Managing Director/CEO, Mr Abubakar Bello, who vowed not to take responsibility on behalf of the past NEXIM managements, Faleke expressed displeasure over the level of impunity perpetuated by the handlers of the public funds, stressing the need for accountability and probity.
The Chairman stated, “N50bn is not owned by government but owned by Nigerians. So, if it is owned by Nigerians and the investment is not yielding income, we as representatives of the people have right to ask you why. Whether it is development finance or not, we need to know.”
In his response, the NEXIM boss, observed that the N50bn capital investment equally owned by Federal Ministry of Finance Incorporated and Central Bank of Nigeria on equal ratio.
He said, “Prior to 2017 when we took over the bank, the bank was consistently making losses and very heavy losses.
“In 2016, I think the profit of the bank was negative N8.5bn. In 2017, when we took over, it came down to N500m. Then from 2018, we started posting profit.
“Now, the cumulative losses in the past have eroded the capital of the bank prior to 2018 and because of loan write-off and losses.
“So, when we brought the bank back into profit, there was a lacuna in the payment of dividend, which is on the need for capital adequacy ratio as directed by the CBN before we can pay dividend.”
On the efforts being made to recover some of the bad loans, Bello disclosed that NEXIM was working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, adding that the step was yielding positive results.