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Anti-Graft Group Demands EFCC Probe of CBN Governor Over Unlawful Import Concession

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A leading anti-corruption group has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) to initiate a probe of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over a concession granted by its Governor Godwin Emefiele to Sonia Foods Limited for the importation of tomato concentrate.

In a petition addressed to the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) raised issues bordering on bias and subversion of due process.

The petition signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, repeated allegations that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, through a letter dated the June 16, 2020 to the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, requested a concessionary import duty of five percent and waiver of levies of thirty-five per cent and $1500/ton on imported tomato concentrate for Sonia Foods Limitd for a period of two years.

HEDA said the governor made the request to the minister appealing for the Minister to advise the Controller General of Customs and Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service accordingly. Citing widespread media reports, HEDA said Sonia Foods is a company allegedly owned by a certain Nnamdi Nnodebe.

Mr Suraju said sometime in 2017, Emefiele, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment banned the importation of tomato paste and powder, and increased the tariff on importation of tomato concentrate among others from five to 50 percent in order to revive the tomato sector and wade away importations.

HEDA said Mr Emefiele’s action circumvents the law and potential breaking of law and order and should be meted with immediate investigation and proper sanctions.

“The allegations contravene the Code of Conducts for Public officers, Part 1, of the fifth schedule in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Altered), Rule 1 of the Code states that a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities” HEDA said.

He cited Section 9 of the Code which covers what a public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such an act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.

“The above allegations are in contravention of the code of conduct and the said Governor of the apex bank holds a position that requires a high level of transparency and accountability, however with the above relayed, his accountability and transparency in the office is questionable and should be probed with immediate effect” HEDA said.

HEDA asked the EFCC to invoke its powers as vested in Section 6(h) and Section 7(1(a)) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004. Section 6(h) of the Act to probe the CBN.

“Also, Section 7 (1(a)) of the Act states that the Commission has the power to cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed an offense under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes.

“We write for an investigation to be carried out into the above relayed allegations against the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in relation to the above allegations with aim of uncovering and ridding the nation of corruption, abuse of office, sharp practices and breakdown of law and order,” Mr Suraju said.

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