By Damilola OyedeleÂ in Abuja
The Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise and Tarrif and Marine Transport has said fears expressed by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN),Â on how the threat of arrest of over 30 Chief Executives Officers was detrimental to businesses was unfounded and off the mark.
The CEOs, have failed to honour the invitation of the committee in an ongoing investigation into the loss of over N30 trillion revenue by the government, due to the connivance of the companies with officials of the Nigeria Customs Services and other agencies.Â
The committee recently disclosed that it had ordered the arrest of the CEOs, although no arrest is reported to have been effected.Â
The President of MAN, Mr. Frank Udemba Jacobs at a briefingÂ on Thursday, said the threat was embarrassing to the CEOs, sent wrong signals to prospective investors and cast a shadow on the safety of networth individuals operating in Nigeriaâ€™s economy.
Jacobs had added that since the allegations involve the NCS, which was the statutory organisation in charge of imports and exports, the logical thing would be for the committee to channel its observations to the agency.
â€œIf not satisfied with the response from the NCS and after thorough investigation, the committee may then avail the companies concerned with the details of the alleged infractions and then invite them to make necessary clarifications or defend themselves. All these could be done without the sensational involvement of the press which may result in unfair media trial,â€ the MAN President had said.Â
But the committee in a statement issuedÂ FridayÂ said the allegations by MAN were unfortunate.Â
The statement issued by its mediaÂ consultant, Mr. Durosinmi Meseko on behalf of the Chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma, said Man should have praised the committee for investigating infractions and other vices leading to revenue leakages at the nationâ€™s ports.
He added that committee should be lauded for working hard to protect the interest of local manufacturers against the myriads of abuses in the sector that had led to the shutting down of several businesses.Â
â€œFor instance, the Free Trade Zone rules have been so much abused through the importation of goods which are sold at lower costs than the locally produced ones, effectively responsible for the death of several local manufacturing concerns. A case in point is that of Gongoni Company in Kano and the Free Trade Zone where the same Gongoni products are brought in and sold at lower prices than the locally produced ones.
â€œThese are issues we are confronting these companies with. We are not particularly targeting the Chief Executives. When we started our sitting, we were not particular about Chief Executives attending but most of the junior staff that came couldn’t answer our queries, so we decided to start summoning the Chief Executives themselves to appear in order to save the Committee some precious time.Â
“So it is completely off the mark for MAN whose interest is being protected to turn round to accuse us of being unfair to the Chief Executives. What we expect these companies and their Chief Executives to do is to be wise enough to pay the outstandings found against them back to government or our Committee would have no option than publish their names and the amounts being owed government. No amount of name-calling and blackmail will stop us from concluding this all-important national assignment,” he said.Â