The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has written a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to initiate a probe into activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria over concession granted a private company for the importation of consumable items.
In the petition, HEDA raised suspicion of bias in the import concession granted Sonia Foods Ltd to import tomato concentrate.
The petition followed a report that Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, had recommended import duty of five per cent and levy waiver to Sonia Foods, a company owned by one of his relatives, Nnamdi Nnodebe, to import tomato concentrate for the next two years.
SaharaReporters had reported that the move by Emefiele was against the tomato sector policy of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
Buhari had in 2017 through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment banned the importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate and increased the tariff on importation of tomato concentrate among others from five to 50 per cent in order to revive the tomato sector.
Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, Chairman of HEDA, stated that all parties indicted are yet to deny the allegation including how the CBN governor made the request to the minister appealing for him to advise the Comptroller-General of Customs, and Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service accordingly.
“It was also conveyed in the report that the CBN governor allegedly pads his pockets through his cronies by sabotaging all policies of the Nigerian Government against food importation. For instance, exclusivity for his friends being sole importers of powdered milk into the country under the guise that they are investing in setting up cattle ranches which is reported to have resulted in the explosive rise of prices of powdered milk by more than 300 per cent,” he said.
The group referred to another allegation against Emefiele that he gives his business associates exclusive waiver to import thousands of tons of maize to curtail maize shortage without a single ton given to the Nigerian Poultry Association and without the knowledge of the Minister of Agriculture or approval of the President.
Suraju said Emefiele’s action circumvents the law and potential should be sanctioned.
He cited Section 9 of the Code, which covers that a public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such an act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.
“The allegations contravene the Code of Conducts for Public officers, Part 1, of the fifth schedule in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Altered), Rule 1 of the code states: that a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.
“The above allegations is in contravention of the code of conduct and the said governor of the apex bank holds a position that requires a high level of transparency and accountability, however with the above relayed, his accountability and transparency in the office is questionable and should be probed with immediate effect,” Suraju added.
The group requested the EFCC to invoke its powers as vested in Section 6(h) and Section 7(1(a)) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004. Section 6(h) of the Act to probe the CBN.
“Also, Section 7 (1(a)) of the Act states that the commission has the power to cause investigations to be conducted whether any person, corporate body or organisation has committed an offense under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes.
"We write for an investigation to be carried out into the above relayed allegations against the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in relation to the above allegations with aim of uncovering and ridding the nation of corruption, abuse of office, sharp practices and breakdown of law and order,” Suraju added.