The full text of the press released this morning:
The issue I am about to raise might not be new to you, given the fact that the threat to arrest 30 (thirty) Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of some of our member companies by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, was made public through several media outfits.
This order was for no other reason than the non-appearance of the CEOs of the affected companies in person at the public hearing to investigate companies alleged to be involved in the N30 trillion revenue leakage in the import and export value chain between 2006 and 2017.
In the first instance, this allegation is against respective companies and not the CEOs as individuals and so if the concerned companies in their wisdom choose to mandate a representative from the organisation who has adequate knowledge and responsibility for the issue in question to attend the inquest, we see no justification for the rejection of such a representative, not to talk of the threat of arrest of the CEOs for not attending the public hearing in person.
Moreover, one would have expected that the logical and first thing to do was for the Committee to channel its observations or inquest to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the statutory organisation in charge of imports and exports. If not satisfied with the response from the NCS and after thorough investigation, the Committee may then avail the companies concerned with the details of the alleged infractions and then invite them to make necessary clarifications or defend themselves. All these could be done without the sensational involvement of the Press which may result into unfair media trial.
As mentioned in our letter to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, let me reiterate that the non-appearance of the CEOs of the affected companies was not intended to disrespect the 8th Senate but a case of shortness of notice and unavoidable absence due to reasons beyond their control.
Our findings from the CEOs of MAN member companies affected revealed that most of them were not in the country during the time of the meeting, which informed the deployment of very senior and competent officials from their respective organisations to represent the companies. We therefore deplore this attempt to tarnish the image of the CEOs by publicly threatening them with arrest, when they have not been indicted for any wrong doing. Maligning individuals whose activities have contributed immensely to the growth of the Nation’s economy is unfortunate, inappropriate and inimical to the current effort of the Nigerian Government at moving the economy completely out of recession and placing it on the path of sustainable growth. At the same time, it amounts to sending wrong signal to prospective investors and casting a shadow on the safety of high networth individuals operating in our economic space.
Besides, there is need to ensure that rights of individuals engaged in legitimate business ventures in Nigeria are respected and protected. The man-hour and resources expended in honouring such invitations should also be taken into account as these invitations have become more frequent, in some cases such appointments have been cancelled after the CEOs arrived the venue of the meetings or the expectedly busy CEOs are left waiting for hours before the meetings commence.
Going forward, we again express our readiness to engage the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff with a view to facilitating the promotion of a healthy relationship between the government, or its agencies and our member companies.
Frank Udemba Jacobs, MON