Nigeria lost estimated N28 trillion to shady trade practices of local, foreign companies in 8 years —Reps member, Bamisile

Nigeria lost estimated N28 trillion to shady trade practices of local, foreign companies in 8 years —Reps member, Bamisile

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The lawmaker representing Ekiti South Federal Constituency II comprising Emure, Gbonyin, and Ekiti East Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Bamisile, in this interview by ‘YOMI AYELESO, speaks on the administration of Governor Biodun Oyebanji, the nation’s economy under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the last one year, among other issues.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission recently ceded the authority to regulate power generation to Ekiti State. As a lawmaker from the state, what is your take on this?

I am particularly happy about this process. I think it will help in resolving many pending issues regarding outrageous billings by the distribution companies. Let me especially appreciate Governor Biodun Oyebanji for initiating the process for the ceding of the electricity market regulatory authority to Ekiti State. I know this action is a masterstroke that will stop the extortion of consumers. This feat was accomplished owing to the governor’s competence and building of strong cords of networks and relationships with federal agencies. I salute the governor’s populist and welfarist programmes that are elevating governance and according recognition to the masses because the ceding will increase power generation and invariably catalyse industrial development in Ekiti. We could all agree that the poor pace of development of small and medium scale enterprises (SMSEs) is a major precursor for spiraling poverty in Ekiti. This is why the state is poorly industrialised. It is my  fervent hope that the current arrangement will bring an upswing to industrial growth.

Since the advent of democracy in 1999, every successive government has tried to bring industrial growth, but failed due to epileptic power generation. The electricity distribution companies have not been performing well because of  defective monitoring by regulatory agencies. But vesting the electricity market regulatory authority in Ekiti government, which was an enigmatic initiative of Governor Oyebanji, means that the state will be actively involved in billing processes and determination of the rate of power supply that will phase out extortion of the consumers. I know that the distribution companies are profit oriented, when they perceive a situation whereby their gains will be a function of their effectiveness, they will be tasked to perform more effectively. When this happens, businesses in the areas of SMSEs, hospitality, entertainment, ICT will improve and this will upscale the general security level.

Any environment where electricity supply and security seem to improve, then industrial development will take off at a speedy rate. Under this context, jobs will be created, wealth will circulate around, poverty will reduce, the government will make more revenues and ultimately, industries will start sprouting. The gains inherent in this recent arrangement can’t be overemphasised. Our people must have firm and unshaken belief in the leadership of Governor Oyebanji and back him to achieve his dream of making Ekiti an industrially mobile state.

 

But the opposition in the state has criticised one of the projects of the governor, which is the N17 billion second flyover bridge being constructed, whereby they declared it as a misplaced priority. Don’t you agree with them, considering the finances of Ekiti?

Absolutely no. This is one project that will further expose Ekiti to better business opportunities and it must be commended by all. I think it is high time our people began to see things from a broader prism and stop politicising  issues of development. Politics has come and gone. This is the time for governance. This should be taken as a responsibility of everybody. This flyover has a lot of inherent advantages — it will reduce traffic congestion in the capital city and create an effective business district that will transform the state’s economy, by creating veritable opportunities for property and business owners to grow and expand. The project can only be an albatross to our people if compensation was not paid to those whose property were acquired to build the project. But Governor Oyebanji had done the enumeration and paid compensation to those affected. So, there is no reason for opposition figures to cry hoaxes.

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), specifically has declared to return to power in 2026 by defeating Governor Oyebanji. Are you not worried that the APC might lose the next election?

Not at all. It was just one of those empty boasts. Just take a look at the PDP, the party is in total shambles. Virtually all their major pillars and political figures are supporting Governor Oyebanji because of his good works and good politics. He believes his government belongs to all Ekiti people. Presently, work is ongoing on the flyover being constructed between Okeyinmi and Ijigbo junction in Ado Ekiti while the Ekiti State Ring Road Phase 1 is nearing completion. This is a road that will turn around the local economies of Iworoko, Igbemo, Araromi Obo, Are, Afao and other towns along that axis. By the last count, about 20,000 people have been employed into the private and public sectors of the economy. The governor has also begun work on the construction of the Ikere-Igbara Odo road, Isinbode-Ara-Ikole road, completion of the Ado-Iworoko-Ifaki dualisation project, Ogotun-Ikogosi road, Ikere-Ise-Emure road, Itapa-Omu-Ijelu road, and others. By the time all these projects are delivered, the opposition will know that Governor Oyebanji remains the candidate to beat in 2026 by the grace of God and the support of our people. This is because he has served well and performed astoundingly.

 

The administration of President Bola Tinubu is marking one year in office with his renewed hope agenda. The administration has been consistent in the last twelve months by working to increase revenue generation but there are issues with saboteurs. How can economic sabotage by companies be tackled?

Sharp practices by foreign companies and their local syndicates had been a serious economic sabotage afflicting our nation presently and this reflected in the tone of a recent motion I moved on the floor of the House. It is highly regrettable how Nigeria lost a humongous sum of N28 trillion through shady trade practices being committed by some foreign and local companies in Nigeria. This is something that should worry all of us.

In the last eight years, Nigeria lost an estimated sum of N28 trillion to trade malpractices perpetrated by rogue foreign companies. Daily, hundreds of shady trade deals are carried out by foreign and local companies operating in the different sectors of Nigeria’s economy. The EFCC, customs, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and NIMASA can definitely not be at all places at the same time. In the maritime sector alone, the volume of revenue diverted by foreign companies is about 40 times the revenue target of the Nigerian Customs Service, and this does not include the N6 trillion being lost annually to sophisticated tax avoidance schemes, according to FIRS, perpetrated by some foreign companies. The worst hit by this economic pillaging was Nigeria’s free trade zones, like the oil and gas sector, which has made the country’s revenue profile plummet exponentially.

They must have partners who call the shots and cover their tracks so as to avoid being caught. There is a need to investigate and ascertain the illegal economic trade malpractices being carried out in the private sector: foreign and local companies in Nigeria.

Like I rightly suggested, while moving the motion, the House must set up a special investigating committee to recover, harness or prevent further loss of such magnitude of resource in a bid to enhance the overall country’s GDP and restore the economic viability of the nation. The investigative scope will be elastic to cover private sector activities on land, sea, and air. To carry out its statutory oversight functions in an increasingly sophisticated private sector three is need to build a technical software tracker that cannot be easily by-passed, which will pre-empt the multiple trade malpractices scheme employed by their foreign companies.

 

Legal icon and founder of Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola, has written series of letters calling the attention of the Federal Government to the deplorable Ado-Ijan-Ikare road, which connects the Southwest to the Northern part of the country. But it appears his efforts and those of others have yielded positive results with the recent approval by the government for the dualisation of the road. How do you see this development?

Let me commend President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for acceding to the request for the dualisation of this highly pivotal road that favourably connects the Southwest to the Northern part of our country through the efforts of our progressive governor. It is quite commendable because it came at a time when progressive works are ongoing on the reconstruction of Ado-Ikere-Akure road.

One can’t imagine the advantages the combined effects of these two projects will attract to Ekiti when completed. The Ado-Ikare road is of particular concern to me because it touches the lives of my constituents in Ayekire Local Government Area besides connecting Ado Ekiti to Afe Babalola University, Federal Polytechnic, Ekiti Free Trade Zone, Ekiti Cargo international Airport, and other institutions.

By record, Ayekire local government is revered as a major cocoa, timber, palm trees, and yam belt in Ekiti. My constituents’ contributions to the GDP of Ekiti are enormous because of their comparative advantage in farming.

If this project is completed, farmers in that axis would have limitless opportunities to transport some of their produce to Abuja, Kabba, Lokoja, and Lagos markets for better profits. But, as of now, the deplorable state of the road is inhibiting these opportunities and limiting farmers’ capacities to make profit. I appeal to the Minister of Works, Senator Dave Umahi, who had commendably visited the site of the project to, as a matter of fact and urgency, make this road a priority being a major artery and nerve centre of Ekiti’s economic survival.

The contractor has nothing to fear. My people are hospitable people. They will seamlessly cooperate with them to ensure that the project is successfully executed, so they should start the project in earnest and finish up in record time.

ALSO READ: Police arrest man for attempting to sell daughter for N1.5m


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