By NGOZI Onyeakusi —-



The Senate Committee on Customs, Excise, Tariff and Marine Transport said it is resting on its oars on its ongoing investigation into alleged N30 trillion import duty revenue scam.

Briefing the journalists on the outcome of its investigative meeting with some of the companies on Wednesday in Abuja, the Chairman of the committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, the interest of the Senate in the investigation was to assist the executive in recovering monies trapped in the import and export chain.

He said “there are allegations that the investigation is borne out of personal interest”.

“Once a senate committee passes a resolution as this, it cannot be termed as a decision of a single senator.

“You may not like my face as a person but it is important to look at the credibility of the work we are doing.

“We need to sanitize the Import and export circle to ensure that trade is facilitated and non oil revenue is recovered and strengthened.

“In that manner, government will not rely so much on oil”.

Urging the media and other relevant stakeholders to support the ongoing investigation, Uzodimma explained that the country would not be able to make the necessary progress if Nigerians were not committed in ensuring that national interest was continually protected.

It could be recalled that Uzodinma had last week alerted the public on activities of some fraudsters using his name and the committee to extort money from some companies. The Chairman in a statement, said some unscrupulous individuals were busy parading themselves as staff of the Committee with the aim of defrauding some companies under probe.

He urged the companies being probed to be wary of impostors, saying those claiming to be staff of the Committee should be reported to relevant security agencies for necessary action.

Some officials of the companies under the probe, however, have faulted the Chairman’s denial of allegations of extortion against the Committee, saying there was no smoke without fire.

An official of one of the companies which has its headquarters at Victoria Island, Lagos, claimed that a man repeatedly visited their office with some so called indicting documents. The official who pleaded anonymity for fear of reprisals said the man demanded huge amounts of money from the company.

“The man came several times with documents that he said indicted our company. He demanded for large amount of money to remove the name of the company from the planned Senate probe and that if we do not coperate, the company will get a summon from the National Assembly.

“The man claimed he was from the office of the Chairman, Senate Committee On Customs and that he was Technical Adviser (Assistant) to the Chairman. The company did not accede to his request for gratification as we were not involved in any import duty evasion” he said.

The official said three weeks after the man’s last visit, the company got a letter from the Senate summoning them to appear before the Committee. He said the company traced the man through the complimentary card he dropped and surprisingly, discovered that he was actually linked to a member of the Committee.

Investigation revealed that many other companies under the Committee’s probe, received such visits from a man bearing the same description and complimentary card. Attempts by Business And Maritime West Africa to verify claims of the companies did not yield any result as efforts to reach the Committee Chairman for his response before going to press failed.