Finance ministry alleges blackmail over import duty waivers

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has accused some importers and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) of planning to blackmail the ministry over import duty waivers.This was contained in a statement yesterday by the Director of Information, Salisu Na’inna Dambatta.

Dambatta said the “spurious” plot to malign the minister is based on her alleged refusal to grant import duty waivers in respect of drugs, health commodities and related equipment donated by the Global Fund.He explained: “There are laid-down statutory procedures governing the granting of import duty waivers to importers and NGOs, which are part of the holistic measures put in place to check abuses of the Federal Government’s fiscal incentives. It is also to put to a halt the rampart corrupt practices in the economic sector.”

The information director said the procedures include submission of an application by the importer and the NGO to the Federal Ministry of Finance.

This is done through the Federal Ministry of Health, with evidence of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and submission of an approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the donor agencies, the Federal Government and the recipient NGOs.

He stressed that such application must be duly signed by the Finance Minister or Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, which must also include presentation of a certificate of exemption from tax from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

According to him, only those who engage in non-profit making activities in line with their objectives must do this.Other requirements are submission of: “a proforma invoice indicating the value of the imported items, bill of laden and if the imported items are donated, the NGOs are further required to provide the Federal Ministry of Finance with authenticated letter from the donor agencies.”

The ministry further stated that additional documentation might be required, adding that the “so-called” applicants did not submit the required documents for processing import duty waiver requests.

“The Ministry has also observed that some importers and NGOs engage in the sale of imported drug items which are meant to be distributed to the public free, after being granted import duty exemption by the government.”

“This is in contravention of the provisions of Section 46 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) of 1958 (as amended),” the statement explained.

Dambatta explained that priority is often given to requests for import duty waivers for medical equipment and drugs related items. According to him, 318 concession applications were received and 175 were processed to conclusion from May 1 to November 24 this year.

He warned that the ministry would not succumb to “blackmail and acts of economic sabotage under the guise of the delivery of health services to the people of Nigeria.”

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