The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) has been asked to probe the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, over waivers granted a private company on the importation of consumable items. In a petition addressed to the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) raised a suspicion of bias in the concession granted Sonia Foods Ltd to import Tomato Concentrate.
The petition signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, said allegations yet to be denied by Emefiele, claimed that a letter dated June 16, 2020, was written by the CBN Governor to the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, requesting 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 appealed to the minister to advise the Controller General of Customs and Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service accordingly. Citing widespread media reports, HEDA said Sonia Foods was 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 waivers 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.
HEDA pointed out that Emefiele’s action circumvented the law and should be met with immediate investigation and proper sanctions. “The allegations contravene the Code of Conduct 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.