Teddy Oscar, Abuja
The minister of finance, Dr. (Mrs,) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reaffirmed on Monday that her ministry did not grant waivers to Coscharis Motors Limited for the two BMW bulletproof cars it imported last year for the Lagos State government at tthe cost of N255 million ($1.6 million).
The controversial vehicles were, however, alleged to have been bought by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the minister of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah.
The coordinating minister of economy, who appeared before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Aviation on Monday to address issues concerning importation duty waiver, may have worsened the problems of the embattled automobile dealer, who is accused of not paying over N10 million duty charges for the armoured cars.
She told the Nkeiruka Onyejiocha-led committee that the bulletproof cars were not mentioned among the 300 units of cars, which the Lagos State government applied for waivers in favour of Coscharis Motors Limited.
“Honourable chair, I was asked through your letter to shed more light on the alleged waiver granted by the ministry of finance for the purchase of the two vehicles, and so, that is the issue I would like to address. I would like to say, honourable chair, that it is already released to the press.
“What I know of the matter is that on June 23, 2012, the Lagos State government applied to the President for a waiver as it is normally done for inspection charges and duty exemptions on assorted brand of vehicles in favour of Coscharis Motors for the conduct of the 18th National Sports Festival or the Eko Games.
“Having met all due requirements, the Lagos State was granted this waiver for the import of 300 units of cars of various types, and this was granted. What I know is that on this list, there was no mention of bulletproof cars, and that is all I want to say. So, no waiver was granted for bulletproof cars,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
She explained the process of granting waivers ffor the lawmakers.
States normally apply, and once they have shown how many units, the cost of these units, how they are going to be used, and so on and so forth, we go through, and the application is made, and the waiver (is) granted, if all the parts are clear. It is under that particular law.”
When asked by Jerry Manwe on how the waiver money that was lost could be retrieved, she said: “I do not really feel it is in my place to give advice on this particular matter. I want to limit myself to the invitation, which was sent to me to come and speak about the waiver. Honourable chair, I think you have to refer to other authorities on that.”
Addressing Bethel Amadi’s question on the law that governs waiver, Okonjo-Iweala said: “With regards to the question, the law on the Common External Tariffs that guides our tariffs policy has a provision for His Excellency to provide waivers under certain conditions. In the case of this import for games, the country has no leasing business per se on a large scale that can be used to get this number of cars for officials.”
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) first disclosed that the Federal Government lost more than N10 million, following the purchase of two cars by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Testifying during the second day of the investigative hearing by the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation on the purchase of the cars, Manasah Daniel Jatau, deputy comptroller general in charge of modernisation and public relations, disclosed that Coscharis deceived the National Security Adviser (NSA) to evade the import waiver of the two vehicles.
“The duty payable was supposed to be N10,133,505.74 million, but that duty was not paid because the said import has an import duty exemption certificate (IDEC) number BO/R.102/S.3/V.111B/73 of 20/11/2012 issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“This import duty exemption certificate beneficiary was issued to the Lagos State government (the beneficiary) through Messrs Coscharis Motors Limited for the 18th National Sports Festival (Eko 2012).
“The end user number is 000001672 of 6th June 2013, and it was issued by the office of the National Security Adviser. That is the information we have,” Jatau revealed.