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In Controversial Letter, Emefiele Seeks Waivers for Sonia Foods

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In a direct contravention of President Muhammadu Buahri’s food sufficiency policies, Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, has recommended an import duty and levy waiver to Sonia Foods Industries Limited.

A Lagos Times investigation revealed that Sonia Foods Industries Limited is a Lagos-based company controlled by a businessman Nnamdi Nnodebe and two other members of his family: Mary Nnodebe and Okwuchukwu Nnodebe. The Nnodebes have expansive business interests in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and also own Nadel Farms and Nadel Electronic Company Limited.

Mr Emefiele’s request for the company to receive a concessionary five per cent duty rate seems to run contrary to Preseident Muhammadu Buhari’s tomato sector policy.

President Buhari had banned the importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate and increased the tariff on importation of tomato concentrate among others from 5 to 50 per cent in 2017. The ban had been implemented through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, then headed by Okechukwu Enelamah.

According to businessmen who spoke to this newspaper, the value of imported tomato paste in Nigeria was about $170m and $50m spent on triple tomato concentrate.

A document seen by the Lagos Times newspaper advised: “Increase in the tariff of the tomato concentrate and other concentrates (HS Code 2002.90.11.000) from five per cent to 50 per cent and additional levy of $1,500 per metric tons with the objective of increasing the current tariff from five per cent to 50 per cent (35 per cent +5 per cent+10 per cent) and an additional levy of US$1,500 metric ton. Restriction on the importation of tomato concentrates to the seaports to address abuse of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation scheme (ETLS) and inclusion of tomato production and processing in the list of industries eligible for investment incentives administered by the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC),”

However, in a letter to the the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele acted contrary to President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy directive by advising the ministry to grant a concessionary duty rate to Sonia Foods Limited to import tomato concentrate.

Mr Emefiele wrote: “The honourable minister is hereby to consider and approve the concessionary import duty of five per cent and waiver of levies of 35 per cent and $1500/ton on imported tomato concentrate for SONIA Foods Ltd and advise the Controller General of Customs and Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service accordingly. The request if granted will be for a two (2) year period to enable the company to produce enough tomato fruits to service its factories.”

Several sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to Lagos Times newspaper, said that Mr Emefiele’s policies seem to contradict the general policy direction of the Buhari administration.

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