- August 21 2020. 1:03 pm
The Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, yesterday threatened not to approve the budgets of Federal Government’s agencies whose heads refuse to appear before the panel to defend their proposals in the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP), after being duly invited.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola made the threat while presiding at the beginning of a five-day stakeholders’ interactive session on the 2021-2023 MTEF/FSP, in Abuja.
Among agencies mentioned by Adeola were Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), NIMASA, FIRS and NLNG.
“All agencies that are supposed to appear today that are not here must appear tomorrow unfailingly led by the heads of the respective agencies.
This Committee will not attend to any Head of an agency by proxy. It should also be put on record that if they refuse to appear to defend the briefs that we have from the Executive, we will not hesitate to ensure that such defaulting agencies have zero budgets for next year.
“It is a must for heads of agencies to appear because this document was put together by the executive and we need all the heads of agencies to come and defend what is before us.
“So, any Head of agency that fails to appear should as well know that for 2021 – 2023, there will be no budget,” Adeola said.
Meanwhile, the committee also vowed to probe the alleged blocking of Federal Government’s revenue by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
It said it would also investigate the hike in the cost of obtaining residents’permit by immigrants from $350 to $2,000 within a short time.
It was learnt that most immigrants engage in contract (arrangee) marriages with their Nigerian spouses to evade the high fee for residents’ permits.
A member of the panel, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, had alleged that officials of the NIS are frustrating the consultants saddled with generating revenue for the Federal Government while the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (CG/NIS), Mohammed Babandede, was making his presentation.
Akinyelure said: “There are many sources of revenue that are being blocked by the Immigration Service that reduces the capacity of the consultants to deliver on their mandate.”
He urged the panel to demand for copies of the agreements signed by the Federal Government with the various consultants to enable their review by the various stakeholders.
He lamented that the revenue being generated by the NIS is less than 20 per cent of their capacity.
“We have over 10 million immigrants in this country, but we have less than 20 per cent that are captured.’’
“A lot of immigrants are in this country without being registered because the action of the immigration officials frustrated the consultants.
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“They (immigration officials) are collecting over $5,000 through the backdoor but what is given to government is about $2,000.
“We need to invite the minister of interior and the consultants so we can take a look at this critically. We will generate more revenue from the Immigration if all loopholes are blocked.”
Also in her intervention, Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (Binani) (Adamawa Central), lamented that the sudden spike in the cost of collecting resident’s permits from $350 to $2,000 within a short space of time is affecting businesses owned by immigrants and Nigerian entrepreneurs that employ immigrants in the country.
Ahmed said: “Those people that are being given the residents’ permit earn their money in Naira.
“The meaning is that a dollar today is at the official rate of about N380 and if one needs to renew his or her residents’ permit which is annually, you now do N380 times $2,000 which is a huge sum of money.
“Yes, there is a ratio for the sharing formula, but I want to believe that this company are the ones determining the rate of this payment.
“I want to believe that the government of Nigeria is not part of it because the government has always been soliciting and emphasizing that we should encourage investments.
“I think this is not good for the revenue generation of the country. If we are looking at boosting the economy and promoting business investment in this country, this is really not good. I want to suggest that this Committee to look into this issue because there is no where you start something at 350 and within a short period you are now jumping to 2,000 without any explanation.
“That is why you see most of these expatriates folding up their businesses and leaving the country, because you cannot earn in Naira and be compelled to pay for resident permit in dollars. The expatriates are suffering the people employing the expatriates are suffering.”
In his response, Babandede denied that officials of the Service are frustrating consultants engaged by the Federal Government to help it generate revenue.
However, he insisted that such acts of frustration are justified if they exists as the consultants are presently a drain on the resources that are supposed to accrue to the Federal Government.
He also agreed with Senator Ahmed that the cost of residents’ permits is on the high side adding that he has written to the Minister of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who are already looking into gt he issue.
Babandede said: “Immigration officers are not blocking CONTEC but if they are blocking CONTEC, it is a good idea because it is not a good company for Nigeria.
“Nobody should defend CONTEC as a company that is doing business in Nigeria. This is a company that took us to court.
“This is a company that wanted to seize our property, including our Mission House and NNPC building.
“They took us to an arbitration court in the United Kingdom where we were asked to pay N10billion and then why should we defend this company.
“As far as we are concerned, this company has no value for Nigeria. What they are doing is a job the NIS can do better.
“The company increased the permit rate to $2, 000 and reviewed the sharing formula downward but the arrangement still favours them. Fifty-five per cent of the $2, 000 is higher than the 72 per cent of the $1, 000 they were collecting before.
“We have already petitioned the EFCC to explain our disapproval of the arbitrary fee hike. However the Ministry of the Justice is doing something about it because there is no justification for the increment.
He added: “If migrants are forced to pay $2,000 for residents’ permits they will be engaging in crime to raise the money.
“Let me tell, that evidence has emerged that a lot a fake or arranged marriages are now being contracted between immigrants and Nigerians just to evade the payment of the high residents’ permit fee because if you marry a Nigerian you will not pay the $2,000.
“What we are saying is that the increase did not add value to Nigeria but it is rather discouraging investment and leading to increase in criminal activities.”
Senator Gershon Bassey, noted that there appears to be a clear dispute between the NIS and the consultants that should be properly investigated.
“We need to come back in September to carry out a full blown investigation into this matter and resolve it,” Bassey said.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos East), said the panel would investigate the matter after passage of the MTEF and FSP.
Adeola said: “What Senator Akinyelure has informed this Committee about, knowing fully well that his Committee is also working on this issue, from the information we gathered, there is need for us to do a very elaborate investigation on all of these in a bid for us to get more revenue for the country because that is what is germane to us as a Committee.
“But because we are working on a tight schedule, we will take as many information as we can take today (Wednesday) and maybe after the consideration of the MTEF, the Committee can now come in form of a proper investigation of the revenue sources of the Nigerian Immigration Service.”