By DORIS OBINNA
Federal Government has accused Asian companies involved in rice importation in the country of aiming to sabotage its local rice production programme.
Speaking at an interactive session with reporters in Lagos yesterday, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, said the Asian countries engaged in importation brought in rice above allocated quota and therefore owed the Federal Government a total of N36. 56 billion.
He fingered two companies, Popular Farms and Mill as well as Olam, which allegedly imported 300, 204.53 metric tonnes of rice and 110, 163. 63 metric tonnes of rice respectively above their allocated quotas to buttress his point.
“As at December 3, 2014, Popular Farms and Mills had exceeded their approved quota by 300, 204.53MT and Olam by 110, 163.63MT, a combined total of 410, 368.16MT,” he said.
Owing to the excess importation without government’s approval, he said the two companies were to pay the Federal Government N28. 299 billion.
“Popular Farms and Mills owes the treasury N19.379 billion in unpaid levies, while Olam owes the treasury N9.02 billion. Together these two Asian companies owe the Federal Government N28.399 billion.”
He lamented that rather than pay the levies, “the two Asian companies wrote letters to the minister asking for a revision of their rice import quotas. Olam asked for 400, 000MT rice import quota to cover the quantities of rice that they had gone ahead to import (or still desire to import) without any approved quotas or DRPP as required, but a mere agreement with Nigeria Customs that they would pay the duties due once the quota allocations are out. They pleaded with the minister of agriculture to no avail as he insisted everyone must follow the transparent and rigorous methodology on issuance of quotas.”
Vowing that the Asian companies must pay the money owed the Federal Government, Adesina said: “Every company must follow the rules and there are no sacred cows. The days are gone when they can bribe to get what they want. I will not allow them to scuttle our self-sufficiency drive in rice production. I cannot be bought or bribed. These two companies, Olam and Popular Farms and Mills, owe N28.399 billion and they must pay for the excess rice they imported above their allowed quotas at preferential rate.”
The minister also revealed that other Asian companies importing rice into the country exceeded their allocated quotas and, therefore, owed the Federal Government.
“Three other companies, Conti-Agro, Central Trading and Export, and African Farms with no domestic rice production plan, have imported 98, 285MT of rice without approved quotas and owe the treasury N8.16 billion. All these five companies owe the Nigerian government a total of N36.56 billion,” he said, insisting that every company must pay “what is due for excess volume they were allotted to import or for rice imported without a quota.”
Source : SunOnline