The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee has summoned the heads of three Federal Government agencies over the loss of billions of naira in revenue from companies operating in the oil and gas free zones, as contained in the audit queries issued by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF).
It also directed its clerk to publish the said audit queries from the office against defaulting agencies in three national dailies for the public and the President to see.
The affected agencies included the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Nigeria Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (NOGFZA), and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
The lawmakers had hinged their rulings on the reports submitted for legislative action by the AuGF detailing several infractions by government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
At the resumed investigation of the MDAs on Monday, the committee Chairman, Oluwole Oke, decried the attitudes of the relevant agencies which he said abdicated their statutory responsibilities of generating revenue for the government while Nigeria goes cap-in-hand for loans from foreign countries and creditors to finance the nation’s annual budgets.
He explained that the purpose of the publication was to keep Nigerians and President Muhammadu Buhari abreast of the sabotage of the efforts to make life better for the citizenry.
“We have invited all the regulators – the Federal Ministry of Industry, Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Standards Organisation of Nigeria and they are supposed to appear today,” he said. “But they are not here. All the companies listed by the regulators, some of them are here, but the regulators are not here.
“From the evidence presented by these companies, we discovered that a company’s capital allowances rose from N4 billion to N33 billion within a year and they brought the certificate here for us to see. We called the Ministry of Industry to come and confirm whether they issued the certificate or not.
“If you issued a certificate for a foreign asset, an asset acquired outside the country, at least, there will be import duty, and there will be a receipt. Ministry of Industry, did you inspect the asset before you issued a certificate of N33 billion? Those are the questions we are asking the Ministry of Industry to come and answer. They have refused to come.
“Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority collected money in dollars from licencees and refused to issue a receipt to them. All the licencees that have appeared before this panel said they were not issued receipts. Oil and gas Free Zone, come and tell Nigerians why you did not issue them receipts and where is our money? The Minister of Finance has said severally that we will continue to borrow money to finance our budget because we have revenue gaps and because we are unable to collect the revenue we should have collected.”
The lawmaker lamented that a situation where the country keeps suffering the loss of revenue through non-issuance of receipts for payments made to oil and gas free zone authority, fraudulent practices on the issuance of certificates of acceptance on capital allowances by the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was unfortunate and unacceptable.
He said, “The parliament cannot fold its hands. The difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance is very narrow. So, our ruling is that I want us to publish all the queries in three national dailies and all the regulators concerned and licencees who made allegations that they paid XYZ,” the chairman ruled.
Oke added that while the committee was not out to witch hunt anyone or agency, it has a responsibility to find out if the enabling laws were no longer active and obsolete, to enable the parliament to enact new ones to enhance performance and economic growth.
He also stated that the Director-General BER must appear in person to answer queries issued against his agency, just as he is expected to appear with the Certificate of Acceptance for Capital Allowance.