Members of the House of Representatives’ Joint Committees on Customs & Excise; and Banking & Currency on Tuesday clashed over the move to issue a warrant of arrest on the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Customs and Excise, Leke Abejide, had ruled that the warrant be issued on Emefiele over his alleged refusal to answer summons by lawmakers. The House had on January 27, 2022, asked the CBN to suspend the electronic evaluation and invoicing policy recently introduced in the import and export chain, warning that it might negatively affect revenue collection by the Nigeria Customs Service. Emefiele was also to appear before the committee to explain the implication of the policy to Customs’ revenue target in 2022.
The resolution was based on Abejide’s motion titled ‘Call on the Central Bank of Nigeria to Suspend the Implementation of the new Guidelines on the Introduction of E-Evaluator, E-Invoicing for Imports and Exports Businesses in Nigeria.’ Moving the motion, Abejide had recalled that the CBN, on January 21, 2022, issued a circular on guidelines on imports and exports businesses in Nigeria, with Reference Number TED/FEM/FPC/PUB/01/001 to take effect from February 1, 2022, 10 days after the issuance of the guidelines.
The lawmaker had said “sudden monetary/fiscal circular hurriedly or half-hazard implemented often leads to policy summersault, hence major policy change such as this, a grace period of 90 days is usually expected for transactions to run their full course to avoid distortion in the economy and price distortions of trade.” Adopting the motion, the House had urged the CBN to “suspend the policy with immediate effect to enable adequate sensitization on the workability of the policy in all major ports of entry including seaports, airports and border stations.”
The lawmakers also “invite the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to brief the Committee on Customs and Excise, with the assurances that the target revenue of N3.1tn given to the Nigeria Customs Service by the Federal Government of Nigeria, which the NCS announced to the media that they are targeting N4.2tn, will not be distorted by this sudden policy implementation.”
Also, the House urged the CBN to give a 90 days’ timeline for subsequent new fiscal/monetary policy implementation to allow for adjustment in order to stabilise the economy. At the investigative hearing on Tuesday, Abejide expressed his displeasure with the absence of Emefiele, saying the parliament could not continue to tolerate it; hence, a warrant of arrest should be issued.
While some members of the committee opposed the suggestion, insisting that they must be given an opportunity to express their views on the matter and vote on the next line of action, others alleged that the CBN governor had always ignored invitations from the National Assembly and that he was being shielded by some unnamed lawmakers.
In the midst of the disagreement that ensued, a member, Sada Soli, pleaded for calm and called for an executive (closed-door) session. Emerging from behind the closed-door after about 10 minutes, Abejide said, “Please, everything has been withdrawn behind closed doors and we resolved to withdraw the warrant of arrest earlier issued against the CBN governor.
But if anyone tries to look down on the parliament, we will go ahead.” “We communicated with him twice; he said we should give him time, that he was having meetings with some governors. Even the director in charge of this guideline is out of the country. He wrote to us officially. They said they didn’t see the second letter that we wrote informing them about this meeting. Now they are aware.