The Joint Committee of the Senate Committees on Finance, Trade and Investment, Gas, Petroleum Upstream, Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, and Customs, Excise and Tariff was yesterday informed that Nigeria had no record of oil and non-oil products exports carried out in the country since June 2015.
The committee also learnt the situation had cost the nation over N23.6 billion expected to be repatriated proceeds of the export within the period.
The committee also alleged discovery of over $850 billion said to have been earned by Nigeria between 1996 and 2014 from its crude oil export proceeds which was not repatriated to the country by the Joint Venture Oil Companies.
The committee said these developments were absolute contradiction of Nigeria’s Pre-shipment Inspection of Export Act and Article 26 of Export Policy Guidelines and procedures for crude oil, Gas and non-oil goods.
These revelations were made amid an investigative public hearing organised by the committee following a motion moved on the floor of the Senate by Senator Abubakar Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central) in July, 2016, where he claimed that there had been gross violation of the Pre-shipment Inspection of Export Act by certain Institutions of Government.
Mr. Usman Ndanusa, who is a deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, who represented the ministry at the investigative hearing, posited that the country had since June 2015, been exporting its oil and non-oil products without measurement and documentation.
He said the development was sequel to the disengagement of pre-shipment inspection agents at the various export terminals in the country and their subsequent replacement with agents who were merely asked by the federal government without legal and constitutional backing to carry out the pre-shipment work at the terminals.
As indicated by him, since their engagements had no backing of the law, couple with the fact that the Monitoring and Evaluation Agents, being the federal government workers expected to monitor the activities of the pre – shipment inspection agents, were not working over non payment of entitlements, there was no one to undertake supervision of the agents.
The development, he noted, left the country at the mercy of the agents.
He also unveiled that the country had no control of measurement of its oil and non-oil export commodities, noting most of the terminals across the country had no comprehensive metering systems.
Pronouncing the public hearing open, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, noted with dissatisfaction the refusal of the Joint Venture Oil Companies to repatriate crude oil export proceeds of over $850 billion between 1996 and 2014
He cautioned the companies against flouting the laws of the country they were doing business in, stressing that those found wanting in the development would be made to face the wrath of the country’s law.
“It is therefore worrisome as revealed in the motion that the Joint Venture Oil Companies have refused to repatriate crude oil export proceeds of over $850 billion between 1996 to 2014 which is in total contravention of the Pre-shipment Inspection of Export Act and Article 26 of Export Policy Guidelines and procedures for crude oil, Gas and non-oil goods.
“If the country is good for doing business it simply means the laws of the country must also be respected.
“Whoever is found culpable will be brought to book no matter how highly placed because the monies involved is enough to tackle the infrastructural challenges all over Nigeria,” he said.
“Nigeria is a country with some well drafted and interpretable laws but overtime it has become very easy to break these laws because institutions which are meant to enforce compliance are not alive to their responsibilities. “
As indicated by Saraki,“Section 11 of the Pre Shipment Inspection of Export Act clearly states that “an exporter of goods, including petroleum products, shall open, maintain and operate a foreign currency domiciliary account in Nigeria into which shall be paid all exports proceeds corresponding to the entire proceeds of the exports concerned.
“And Article 26 of the Guidelines provide thus that:”Within 90 days from the date of export, all exporters (whether oil, gas or non-oil) shall ensure that the export proceeds are repatriated and credited into their domiciliary account opened with a bank in Nigeria.
“It is the responsibility of the Central Bank of Nigeria to monitor the repatriation of all export proceeds, “he said, regretting that the laws were being undermined.
The President of the Senate, while noting that Nigeria was faced with challenging economic recession at the moment, charged senators to do everything necessary to sanitize the system.
“Patriots, we must do all within our constitutional powers to plug the leakages in the system. There is a frightening consensus that if we do not kill corruption as a country, corruption will kill Nigeria, “he charged senators.
The Senate President additionally said “after so many years of circumventing the process, the 8th Senate is in a hurry to move the country forward, through legislative intervention in order to reverse the abject penury that has become the norm for the majority.”
In his comment, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, John Owan Enoh, who was also the chairman of the joint committee investigative committee, said the hearing was pursuant to the mandate of the Senate to carry out a holistic investigation on the pre-shipment of exports activities in Nigeria.
The Committee is relied upon to concoct with recommendations that will strengthen Senate’s operations and capacity with positive impact on the national economy.
He noted that prior to the enactment of the Pre-shipment Inspection Act, export of crude oil and gas was characterised by undervaluation, delay in issuance of invoices, payment of goods and other disturbing leakages.
“The purpose of Pre-shipment Inspection of Export Act, according to him, was to instill probity and transparency in the process, to reduce losses through effective supervision of loading and lifting of the Nigerian crude oil and non-oil export based quality, quantity and value of products”, Enoh expressed.
He said the major task before the committee was to expose, observe loopholes and put in place a more transparent process in the overall interest of the economy and the citizenry.
Source: This day