A coalition, Civil Society Network against Corruption, CSNAC, has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to urgently investigate the alleged abuse and massive fraud in the N117 billion rice import quota scheme.
In a petition to the anti-graft agency, signed by the coalition’s chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, CSNAC urged the chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, to look into the report published by PREMIUM TIMES.
According to the report, the 26 companies that benefitted from the rice import quota scheme included Milan, Bua, AA Ibrahim, Stine Rice Mills, JMK Foods, Labana Rice Mill, Elephant Group, Honeywell, Kerksuk Farms, Wacot, Mikap Rice, Golden Penny, Stallion, Umza International Farms Limited, Dangote and Olam.
Others are Tara Agro, Ebony Agro, Atari Rice Industry, Ashi Foods, JAI, Arewa Rice Mill, Onyx Rice Mill, Bansara Rice, Danmodi and Klysat.
The report said that Mikap Rice is owned by a former Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, while Ebony Agro is owned by Charles Ugwu, a former minister of commerce and industry. Ashi Foods is owned by the immediate past governor of Benue State Gabriel Suswam.
Milan Group is a business interest that also owns Intercontinental Hotels while Bua is owned by billionaire Ishaku Rabiu. Honeywell is owned by Oba Otudeko while Elephant Group is owned by Tunji Owoye.
Labana Rice is owned by former Kebbi State governor Adamu Aliero while Keresuk is owned by one Rotimi Williams.
The report further stated that for instance, Umza International Farms Limited has a rice mill in Kano with a capacity of 30,000 MT. Beyond this mill; Umza has no other investment in local rice production. However, the company was given import allocations in two categories: 36,000 MT under existing miller allocation and also got 49,207 MT under investor allocation.
“Due to the huge amount spent on rice importation by the Federal Government, the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2014 came up with a new rice policy to fast-track national self-sufficiency in rice production,” the petition read.
“The policy specified that owners of existing rice mills and new investors with verifiable backward integration in the rice value chain will be allowed to import rice at 10 per cent duty and 20 per cent levy (30 per cent); while merchants who have nothing to contribute to local production in the form of rice farms or mills will be charged 10 per cent duty and 60 per cent levy (70 per cent).
“Technically, it was a waiver aimed at building local capacity in rice production. Subsequently, an inter-ministerial committee which was headed by Mr. Akinwunmi Adeshina, current President of Africa Development Bank (ADB), was set up to work out the national rice supply gap and allocate import licenses with appropriate quotas in order to bridge the gap and at the same time, advancing the objectives of the national rice policy.
“On paper, this committee was to determine beneficiaries and allocate quotas based on four key criteria that assess investment of individual companies into local rice production,” the group said.
CSNAC in its petition noted that, “From the foregoing, just like the fuel subsidy scam, this is another case of economic sabotage by a cabal of some sort who will stop at nothing to ensure that they continue to make profit, at the expense of the suffering Nigerian citizens and the economy of the country as a whole.
“This laudable policy introduced by the former administration would have revolutionised the Nigerian economy in terms of putting Agriculture and rice production on the map again, had it not been hijacked by this cabal.
“CSNAC is therefore by this petition, calling on the commission to exercise its full powers in conducting a thorough investigation into the abuse of the rice importation waiver, as well as prosecute the perpetrators and those who have corruptly benefitted from the scheme.
“They should be made to refund benefits derived from the fraudulently obtained waivers. This will go a long way in charting a new course for the efficient and effective implementation to the rice policy, thereby boosting rice production in the country, improving the livelihood of small scale farmers in Nigeria as well as revamping the near comatose state of Agriculture in Nigeria.”