No N117bn Rice Scam Petition Before Senate Yet –Anyanwu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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No N117bn Rice Scam Petition Before Senate Yet –Anyanwu

Posted: Dec 31, 2015 at 10:54 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said on Wednesday that the upper chamber had yet to receive any petition on the alleged importation of rice worth N117bn through unconventional routes by rice farmers.

An ad-hoc committee of the red chamber, saddled with the responsibility of investigating the N30bn lost to the rice import waiver granted by the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration, had two weeks ago submitted its report.

However, just as the senators were preparing to consider the report of the committee’s findings, a news report last week alleged another high-level fraud in the business, involving licensed rice importers.

The report specifically alleged that the rice smuggling scam which might have made the country to lose about N117bn, was perpetrated by members of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria, who smuggled the rice because of their inability to meet their local production quota.

But Anyanwu, in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Wednesday, denied knowledge of any formal petition on the issue but informed Nigerians that necessary action would be taken by the Senate whenever its attention was officially drawn to it.

The senator said, “You know we are on recess now, so the attention of the committee had not been drawn to it. An ad-hoc committee on import duty waivers had submitted a report which we have not considered. We will do the needful whenever there is a formal communication on the issue.”

Meanwhile, investigation by our correspondent on Wednesday revealed that rather than waiting for a formal petition before deliberating on the alleged scam, a senator, who pleaded anonymity, said the issue would be raised during the debate on his committee’s report.

He said, “Rather than expecting a fresh petition or a motion, I think the best thing is that we will draw the attention of the Senate to the fresh N117bn issue during the debate on our report and it would form part of our resolution.”

Some stakeholders in the rice industry chain were alleged to have sabotaged the rice policy initiated by Jonathan to boost local production of the commodity in order to sustain their business interests.

The allegation was that the affected companies who were granted licenses to import specific volumes of rice in order to make up for the shortfall in their local production quota as a result of natural disasters witnessed in the country, abused the process by engaging in large scale smuggling.

However, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has denied the allegations, describing it as pure blackmail.

Speaking through its National President, Alhaji Mohammed Maifata, in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja, the group insisted that there was no iota of truth in the publication and urged the Senate to ignore the allegations.

He alleged that the report was sponsored by some foreign and local merchants who were all out to thwart the success being recorded in the country’s rice value chain.

Maifata described the report that his company was importing foreign rice from Thailand, for instance, as laughable.

He said the record of his company on the importation of rice remained very straight and well documented with both the Nigerian Customs Service and other relevant agencies.

He also faulted the report about the installed capacity of his company’s factory, adding that the milling capacity of his rice plant was 72,000MT per annum and not 30,000 MT, as claimed in the report.

He said, “The truth and the fact of this matter is that Umza International Milling Plant has a current milling capacity of 72,000MT per annum and the company is currently in the process of further increasing the milling capacity to about 120,000 metric tonnes per annum.

“In this vein, we challenge the publishers of the report, the paymasters and sponsors, to a working tour of Umza International Rice Milling Plant in Kano at our expense, in the company of independent experts from any part of this world, to determine the true capacity of our mill.”