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Twist as LCCI picks holes on NASS over N30tn probe of 63 leading firms

More divisions are still emerging on the best way to handle the trending N30tn infractions allegedly perpetrated by some number of highly respected firms operating in Nigeria.

The latest voice is coming from the leadership of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), who has raised issues with the ongoing probe of about 63 blue chip manufacturing and service giants over their complicity in the laundering of about N30tn from the economy in the last couple of years.

Hope Uzodimma
Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs Excise and Tariff, Chief Hope Uzodinma

Late last month, the Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise, Tariffs and Marine Transport lead by Senator Hope Uzodinma, had opened up alleging that the said companies had been in the habit evading taxes, due processes in business activities and other sundry acts that had cumulatively robbed the federal government to the tune of over N30 trillion.

Many of the firms had ignored the activities of the Committee, until recently when it issued arrest warrant of their chief executives.

The warrant of arrest threat, however, forced about 11 of the named firms to come out of their shelves and technically owned up to listed infractions.

But speaking on the development over the weekend, the Director General of the LCCI, Muda Yusuf, advised the National Assembly to apply greater discretion even as it uses its oversight functions rights to investigative corporate activities.

According to him, the advice has become necessary to avoid distraction to private sector players, erosion of investors’ confidence and collateral damage to the economy.

The Director-General in a statement, though appreciated the constitutional role of NASS in the promotion of good governance and the advancement of the principle of checks and balances in the polity, it averred that “We note in particular the responsibility of oversight and investigations as prescribed under Sections 88 and 89 of the Nigerian Constitution”.

“However, we request that these investigative powers be exercised with greater discretion to avoid distraction to private sector players, erosion of investor confidence and collateral damage to the economy.

“The LCCI believes, and in fact promotes the ideals of high ethical standards in the business and will not condone or support infractions against the statutory laws by private sector entities.

“However, we will like to see a legislative-private sector interface characterised by mutual respect, fairness, and courtesy.”

LCCI in the statement recommended that allegations and petitions received by the National Assembly about infractions by the private sector should be properly verified for credibility before presenting such to the media.

It would be recalled that in the last one month, the Committee had made two major allegations bordering on both the activities of a public and private sector.

These include the alleged N30tn revenue loss from 63 companies and missing 228 vessels in the report of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

Yusuf argued that “These are grave allegations that needed to be subjected to proper scrutiny before going public. The implications for the nation’s image and foreign investors’ perception are severe”.

“Giving names of corporate organisations in the media over allegations that are not yet proven has considerable reputational cost and collateral damage to such companies. It has weighty consequences for the brand equity of such organisations.”

LCCI also noted that “The frequency of summons of corporate organisations by the National Assembly most of which are in Lagos and other locations outside Abuja, has significant financial implications to such organisations, which include cost of flight, hotels and other logistics for appearing before NASS. The executive time committed to appearance before committees of the National Assembly is enormous especially when most of the committees will insist that appearance should be at the level of the chief executive officers of the companies.”