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Group petitions EFCC to probe CBN’s concession on Import Duty for Sonia Foods

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

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

The petition signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, alleged that the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, through a letter dated 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 claimed the governor made the request to the Minister to advise the Controller General of Customs and Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service accordingly.

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

The group in the petition also accused the CBN governor of “sabotaging all policies of the Nigerian Government against food importation”.

It also claimed that Emefiele’s actions were reported to have “resulted in the explosive rise of prices of powdered milk by more than 300 per cent”.

Suraju recalled that 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 met with immediate investigation and proper sanctions, where guilt is established.

“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.

Read also: LCCI demands reversal of CBN’s import duty exchange rate

He cited Section 9 of the Code which notes 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 EFCC 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 in the petition.

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