The Senate on Thursday gave over 30 companies being quizzed over alleged complicity in the N30 trillion federal revenue loss in the import and export value chain one week to defend themselves.
The Senate’s Joint Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, and Marine Transport, investigation the leakage, gave the order at a meeting with the companies in Abuja.
The committee provided copies of documents detailing the alleged infractions by the companies, including a list of 2,554 shipments with infractions pertaining to unutilised Bill of Laden, to their representatives.
The Senate had mandated the committee to probe into the alleged over N30 trillion revenue leakages in the import and export value chain between 2006 and 2017.
The committee had met with indicted commercial banks and government agencies, while it had penned down over 60 companies for investigation over allegation of complicity in the practices leading to revenue loss.
Chairman of the committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, directed the companies to come back on Thursday for their defence.
He said that Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited, for instance, had to come forward with its defence, which would be sourced from its bankers over alleged unutilised Form M amounting to N13 billion.
“Our position is that if there is anything new outside what we have submitted and presented to you, show us.
“Let us see that you paid the right duties and you will continue with your businesses. That is what we are saying.
“We will have to meet on Thursday. If there is anything you need like clarifications, you can consult with our secretariat,” he said.
The lawmaker said that free trade zones in Nigeria were being abused by corrupt companies, stating that he could no longer understand the idea of free trade zones.
“I don’t know why it is still in operation in Nigeria. It is being abused.”
Also speaking to journalists after the meeting, Uzodinma said that companies which failed to answer the committee’s summons on Tuesday and Wednesday sent their representatives at the meeting on Thursday.
He said, “What we did on Wednesday, we did the same thing today; it is in batches.
“We took the companies who came today and we have given them the materials, and we have directed further that those who were supposed to come today but did not come should ensure that by tomorrow they are here.
“We are also meeting tomorrow.”
On companies that failed to appear on Wednesday and were given Thursday deadline to appear, Uzodinma said, “Some of them came while some of them sent representatives.
“They said that their Chief Executive Officers were abroad, realising that it is summer period really. We have given them time.
“We are waiting till the next two weeks for them to get in touch with their CEOs to appear before us.”
He had said that the refusal by the firms to honour the panel’s invitation was disrespect to the institution of the National Assembly and would not be tolerated.