The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, revealed yesterday that many African countries were lobbying companies operating in Nigeria to leave and come to them.
Appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, the minister, who led other agencies under the Ministry to the committee to respond to queries from the Auditor General for the Federation, said one of such countries was Ghana.
He said those countries had raised the capital allowances of the companies, stressing that those still left behind were attracted by Nigeria’s huge population.
He, however, said the federal government was making efforts to support investments.
“Our duty is to support investment growth in Nigeria. It is public knowledge that getting these investments is increasingly becoming difficult today,” he said.
In his remarks, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Account, Wole Oke, said the country is bleeding economically, decrying that several companies are evading taxes.
“Nigeria is bleeding. We are borrowing daily to finance our budget and the Minister of Finance has said the reason we are borrowing is the fact that we are not collecting the revenue we are supposed to collect.
“The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has issued some instruments which earned companies tax breaks and tax holiday. But this scheme has been abused by the companies.
“When some of these companies appeared before this committee, we noticed from their presentation elements of tax invasion. For example, China Habour got a waiver of N5 billion to import nails and wire nets.
”In my village, we have a company that manufactures nails, but cost of manufacturing nails locally is higher than those imported. So, how do we encourage local production?
“The same company evaded some of the schemes of government and they are seeking to have pioneer status. We also have a company that has been existing in Nigeria since 1979 and has never paid one Kobo to the government. ALSCON has been in operation and has not paid a single Kobo to government’s coffers.
“There is a company that put up a show and usurped the function of NEPZA who are supposed to remit it’s operating surplus. But it’s licensees have undermined the agency.
“Millions of dollars that are supposed to go into NEPZA’a coffees are going into private pockets. That is why we are trying to find out if there is need to review existing laws because the Parliament will not allow the country to continue to bleed.
“MTN gave us certificate of acceptance worth N2.6 trillion and claimed to be the highest tax payers in the country. We are asking them to provide us evidence of how they got those certificates. That is where we are right now.
“Airtel, 9 Mobile are running away. But the law will catch up with them. We are aware that they have spent so much on their investment and so don’t want to be party to dragging their names in the mud. But they must come before parliament to defend the capital allowances they have collected,” he said.
Speaking on the operations of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Oke said the payments many companies claimed to have made could not be seen.
“Some licensees claimed to have made payment which we cannot see. For example, AGIP claimed it has paid millions of dollars to you. I checked the records of your submission and cannot find even one million dollars tracable to a single company.
“They also filed for capital allowance with FIRS and FIRS has given effect to that without the certificate of acceptance issued by the Ministry of Industry. We have asked for evidence of exception and there is none. We have also asked for a list of the assets they imported that qualified and inspected which the FIRS acted on,” he said.