The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has kicked against the harassment of its members by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff over their alleged involvement in the N30 trillion revenue leakages in the import and export value chain between 2006 and 2017.
According to MAN, the threat to arrest some of Chief Executive Officers of its member companies by the Committee for non-appearance at its public hearing despite sending representatives maligns the individuals and their contributions to the economy.
MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs, while addressing journalists at the weekend on the issue, said its engagement with the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) showed that there was no form of revenue leakage as being alleged by the Senate Committee.
Jacobs noted that involving members of the private sector in a probe where facts could have been obtained from statutory government agencies was not necessary.
The calls by MAN is coming on the heels of the recent call by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), seeking understanding of the National Assembly in the execution of its oversight responsibilities in order to avoid erosion of investors' confidence and collateral damage to the economy.
According to the operators, the frequency of summons of corporate organizations by the National Assembly [most of which are in Lagos and other locations outside Abuja] has significant financial implications to such organisations, considering that statutory agencies of government are most often the custodians of some of the information that the private sector is often required to provide to support legislative investigations.
On non-appearance of the CEOs at the public hearing, Jacobs explained: "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.
"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.
"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 net worth individuals operating in our economic space".
Jacobs however emphasised the 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", he added.