Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha
Rejects monopoly in cement sector
Onwuka Nzeshi â€¨in Abujaâ€¨
The House of Representatives yesterday mandated its Committee on Customs and Excise to investigate and ascertain the status of a N275 billion inspection contracts signed between the Federal Government and four foreign firms.
The investigation came same day the House rejected a motion perceived to have been designed to encourage monopoly in the cement manufacturing business in Nigeria.
The contracts which were awarded under the Destination Inspection Scheme (DIS) gave the firms the responsibility of providing scanning services, using electronic platform at various ports in Nigeria.
In a motion sponsored by Hon. Abimbola Daramola (ACN/Ekiti), the House was told that the firms namely, Cotecna Inspection Limited; SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited; Global Scan Systems Limited and Webb Fountain (Nigeria) Ltd, handling information and communication technology services have been handling inspection at the ports in the last seven years.
Daramola disclosed that these firms were supposed to build, equip, train, and transfer the technology to the Nigerian Customs Service and exit the scene at the end of last year.
Daramola, however, alleged that last December, the Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian Customs Service unilaterally extended the contract for a period of six months
The lawmaker stated that as a result of the extension, the sum of N21 billion would be paid to these firms without any guarantee that they would hand over the inspection operations to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) any time soon.
The continued presence of these firms, Daramola said, was becoming a rip off on government revenue from the ports.
According to him, about $1 billion has been lost to the activities of these firms. The House investigation is to be conducted in two weeks.
In a related development, the lawmakers also threw away a motion that sought to investigate the circumstances surrounding the non-implementation of the Backward Integration Policy (BIP) on local production of cement in the country.
The motion sponsored by Hon. Hassan Saleh, alleged that the Federal Government was not vigorously implementing the provision of the backward integration policy in the cement sector.
Saleh explained that the policy was initiated to encourage and protect local manufacturers from the dumping of cement products into the country through importation.
He, however, said the non-adherence to the policy had caused the management of Dangote Cement to temporarily shut down its Gboko Cement Plant in Benue State.
The development has forced the company to lay off its workers.
However, these arguments did not sway the majority of the lawmakers at plenary. Those opposed to the motion said the motion was misdirected and geared towards creating a monopoly in the cement sector.
Meanwhile, proceedings of the House were stalled yesterday midway into the plenary session following the malfunctioning of the audio system in the chamber.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who presided over at the session acknowledged the technical hitches experienced by members in the course of the debates had also stalled the recording of the proceedings.
Ihedioha said problem would be rectified by the technical department of the parliament.
Based on this, the House adjourned plenary to enable members observe the Id’el malud celebrations.
The lawmakers will resumes on Tuesday next week.