Nigerian govt accuses NGOs, importers of illegal activities in health sector

Drugs used to illustrate the story.
Drugs used to illustrate the story.

The Federal Ministry of Finance on Sunday disclosed that some Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, and importers smuggle other imported items into approved duty waivers issued for the importation of medical equipment and drug related items into the country.

A statement signed by Salisu Dambatta, Director of Information at the ministry, said the ministry also observed that these importers and NGOs engage in the sale of imported drugs meant to be distributed to the public for free after being granted import duty exemption by the government.

The statement said such practices are in flagrant abuse of the import duty waiver granted by the Nigerian government and in contravention of the provisions of Section 46 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) of 1958 (as amended).

Mr. Dambatta did not name the defaulters and was silent on whether government has made moves to seek their prosecution in law court.

Mr. Dambatta, according to the statement, also denied allegations that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, refused to grant import duty waivers to the importers, saying such allegations are attempts to malign the name of the minister and the ministry.

Mr. Dambatta said there are laid down statutory procedures governing the granting of import duty waivers to importers and NGOs, which are part of holistic measures put in place to check abuses of the Federal Government’s fiscal incentives and to put a halt to rampart corrupt practices in the economic sector.

“These procedures include submission of an application by the importer and NGO to the Federal Ministry of Finance through the Federal Ministry of Health; evidence of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission; submission of an approved Memorandum of Understanding duly signed by the Honourable or the Honourable Minister of State, Budget and National Planning between the Donor Agencies, Federal Government of Nigeria and the Recipient-NGOs, presentation of a certificate of exemption from tax from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (only for those who engage in non-profit making activities in line with their objectives), submission of a proforma invoice indicating the value of the imported items, bill of laden and if the imported items are donated, the NGOs are required to provide the Federal Ministry of Finance with authenticated letter from the donor agencies.

“Additional documentation may also be required where the need arises. Meanwhile, some of the applicants referred to in the sponsored write-up being planned for circulation did not submit the required documents for processing import duty waivers requests.

“This is in contravention of the provisions of Section 46 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) of 1958 (as amended),” he affirmed.

The statement added that, “For the avoidance of doubt, the Federal Ministry of Finance wishes to state that priority and special attention are always accorded requests for import duty waivers for medical equipment and drugs related items.

“As a matter of fact, 318 concession applications were received and 175 were processed to conclusion from 1st May to 24th November, 2017.”

According to the statement, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration appreciates the generosity of donor agencies and partner NGOs in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, tuberculosis and other deadly diseases.

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Oladeinde Olawoyin reports Business & Economy, Development and Lagos Metro at PREMIUM TIMES. A First Class graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, he was nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2017. Aside maintaining a column titled ‘SATURDAY SATIRE’, he also writes art and culture pieces on weekends. Twitter: @Ola_deinde

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