African countries urging firms to exit Nigeria, Minister tells Reps

African countries urging firms to exit Nigeria, Minister tells Reps

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•Nigeria open to more economic ties with Europe – Gbajabiamila

The Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, on Thursday, told the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts that several African countries were lobbying companies registered and operating in Nigeria to exit and relocate to their countries.

Adebayo explained that the African countries, including Ghana, had increased their capital allowances to companies, which had consequently diverted a lot of investments from Nigeria. He noted that one major factor that was making it difficult for more firms to leave Nigeria was its population.

The minister said that the Nigerian Government was looking for ways of increasing the level of new investment in the country and sustaining the existing ones, saying, “Our duty is to support investment growth in Nigeria. It is public knowledge that getting these investments is increasingly becoming difficult today.”

The Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, had earlier said that several companies operating in the country were in the habit of not paying statutory taxes to the government, causing a revenue shortage for the operation of public services.

Oke said, “Nigeria is bleeding. We are borrowing daily to finance our budget and the Minister of Finance has said the reason we are borrowing is because 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 holidays. 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 evasion.”

He added, “For example, China Harbour got a waiver of N5bn to import nails and wire nets. In my village, we have a company that manufactures nails, but the cost of manufacturing nails locally is higher than those imported. So, how do we encourage local production?

“The same company invaded some of the schemes of the government and they are seeking to have pioneer status. We also have a company that has existed 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 the government coffer.”

Oke also accused other firms operating in Nigeria of evading tax.

He said, “There is a company that puts up a show and usurps the functions of NEPZA who are supposed to remit its operating surplus. But its licensees have undermined the agency. Millions of dollars that are supposed to go into NEPZA’s coffers are going into private pockets. That is why we are trying to find out if there is a need to review existing laws because the Parliament will not allow the country to continue to bleed.

“MTN gave us a certificate of acceptance worth N2.6tn and claimed to be the highest taxpayers in the country. We are asking them to provide us with evidence of how they got those certificates. That is where we are right now.

“Globacom, Airtel, and 9Mobile are running away, but the law will catch up with them. We are aware that they have spent so much on their investments, and so, don’t want to be a party to dragging their names in the mud. But they must come before parliament to defend the capital allowances they have collected.”

The chairman also said that some licensees claimed to have made payments to the ministry “which we cannot see.”

Oke said, “For example, AGIP claimed to have paid millions of dollars to you. I checked the records of your submission and cannot find even $1m traceable 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.”

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that Nigeria is open to having more economic ties with European countries and helping to develop its internal endowments.

Gbajabiamila stated that the country would welcome investments from Europe and seek the transfer of technology to develop its enormous natural resources, including gas and renewable energy sources.

The Speaker was quoted to have said this when he received a parliamentary delegation from Austria led by a member of the Austrian National Council, Honourable Axel Kassegger, at the National Assembly in Abuja on Thursday.

This was according to a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, titled ‘Nigeria Ready for More Economic Ties with Europe – Gbajabiamila…Meets Austrian Parliamentarians.’

Gjababiamila said, “Renewable energy is one way to go. Nigeria has its economic plans well thought-out. And we are well-endowed; we have hydropower, solar and alternative energy. All we need is technology transfer; we have to build partnerships.”

The Speaker, who condemned the war in Ukraine, applauded the sanctions imposed on Russia.

He, however, noted that the sanctions also meant that European countries dependent on gas supplies from Russia had been cut off, adding that Nigeria with its huge gas reserves, could become useful in reducing the supply gap to the affected parts of Europe.

Speaking earlier, Kassegger disclosed that the mission of the delegation was to look into how to expand relations with Nigeria in business development, education, and the deepening of parliamentary diplomacy.

He described the war in Ukraine as “a shame” and urged all nations to condemn it.

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