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National Assembly summons minister, unions over airports’ concessioning


National Assembly

•Reps to probe alleged N5b tax evasion by telecoms firms

The National Assembly yesterday invited the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika and workers’ unions in the industry over plan by the Federal Government to concession the nation’s airports.
The meeting, at the behest of the joint aviation committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, followed workers’ disagreement with the planned exercise. The parley, slated for tomorrow, is to broker peace among the parties.
The workers, under the aegis of Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), penultimate week issued a 15-day ultimatum for the halt of the entire process.

But at a meeting last Friday, hosted by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and Sirika, they reassured the workers that the exercise was in their interest, thus they suspended their proposed strike.

NUATE’s General Secretary, Olayinka Abioye, said the parley was good for the progress of the sector.“The National Assembly has invited us for a meeting on Wednesday. It is a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“They have invited the minister, the unions and other civil society groups to deliberate on issues surrounding the concession of the airports,’’ he said.
The scribe quoted Sirika as saying that the transaction advisers would determine the models of concession.According to him, the unions were informed that the three of the five advisers were from the United Kingdom, one from the United States and the last, a Nigerian.

Meanwhile, an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives has accused some telecommunication operators and vendors of evading taxes to the tune of N5 billion.

An interim report of the Ahmed Abu-led panel said Ericsson was to pay N1, 056,735, 665.77; HUAWEI, N725,889,456.75; Airtel, N875, 111,895.50; Glo 1, 243,337,001.34; MTN, 943,889,454.61 and Nokia, N272, 209, 514.

The committee, in a letter dated October 5 this year, had directed the firms to reconcile figures with consultants at a location within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on or before October 20.

The committee particularly investigated the administrative/operational procedures of the companies and assessed their tax compliance to examine the parameters employed by the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria in approving fund transfers for them.

Besides, most of the officials refused to comply with the directive. An official, who craved anonymity, described the development as strange.

His words: “This is suspicious. We appeared before the ad hoc committee during the investigation, surprisingly, the committee, after concluding its investigation, directed us to meet with its consultants outside the National Assembly to reconcile figures.

“ We do not feel this is right and we don’t want to be accused of trying to manipulate the system. The committee should come up with its recommendations and we shall be ready to present our position, even in the court of law. We are not into any tax-evading business. “

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