Five months after it called for investigation of companies involved in rice importation including Stallion Group and two others for exceeding their approved quota and evading payment of N43 billion import duties to the Federal Government, the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, ordered another probe of the group for alleged evasion of N15 billion tax.
The company, according to a motion moved at plenary, was helped to perpetrate the illegality by the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The decision to investigate the group, is part of efforts to check its conducts in relation to tax payments, following the adoption of the motion by Hon. Abdullahi Umar Faruk.
In the motion titled: “Need to investigate the evasion of tax by Stallion Group,” Faruk drew the attention to a newspaper report in which the company was accused of trying to evade payments of a N17 billion import duty imposed on it by the Nigerian Customs, after exceeding its 2014 rice import quota under the dual tariff system.
He told the parliament that “the Inter-Ministerial Committee, headed by the immediate past Vice President, Namadi Sambo, adopted a new “national rice supply gap” of 782, 000 metric tonnes and allocated quotas to 16 existing millers.
The millers, he said, included Mascot Agro, which according to him, was hurriedly registered as a subsidiary of Stallion Group that had been blacklisted by the Nigerian Customs for non-payment of excess duty.
“The Stallion Group evaded payment of N15 billion duty arising from its having imported 475, 000metric tonnes of rice over and above its 2014 quota of 89, 939 metric tonnes of rice through Mascot Agro which was not a recognised rice miller without any quota allocation in 2014”.
The lawmaker added that while other companies such as Kereksuk Farms, Atafi Rice Industries and Arewa Rice Mill, paid their duties to the Nigerian Customs, Stallion Group still refused to pay its taxes and was rather determined to use additional quotas granted to Mascot Agro to further evade payment of the new custom duty.
According to him, the new quota which was approved by former President Jonathan, based on the recommendation of the Inter Ministerial Committee, that reviewed the policy to facilitate the evasion of such import duty, was conveyed to the Nigerian Customs Service on May 28, 2015, by the former Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda.
The NCS, he said, had identified Stallion Group as debtor and “had shut down the warehouse of Stallion Group over non-payment of such duty,” but that “the Presidency ordered the Customs authority to reopen them, pending the resolution of the matter “
He warned that if the matter is not thoroughly investigated in furtherance of the current government’s anti-corruption stance, a wrong precedent could be set that would encourage similar acts by other private sector entities.
Contributing to the motion, Leo Ogor, the House Minority Leader, said that there was no need for the House to take the motion because a committee he headed in the Seventh Assembly had done similar work in the investigation of evasion of rice import duty, adding that there are reports and recommendations that can guide the House on the way forward.
Disagreeing, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, ruled that it was okay for the motion to be taken, emphasising that new light could be shed on the issue.
The House unanimously adopted the motion after it was put to a voice vote, following which the matter was referred to the House Committee on Customs and Excise (when constituted) to investigate and make appropriate recommendations to the House.