The committee specifically directed the Nigeria Police to arrest the CEOs of Crown Flour Mills, Globacom and 28 others who failed to honour its invitation to answer to their alleged involvement in the alleged scam.
The Senate panel, at its sitting on Friday, said only 33 chief executives responded out of the 63 firms invited.
Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma, gave the directive at the committee’s investigative meeting on Friday in Abuja. He said the refusal by the CEOs to honour the panel’s invitation despite several reminders was disrespectful to the National Assembly as an institution.
Uzodinma said the 8th Senate would not tolerate such behaviour from anybody, particularly as it concerned the Federal Government revenue.
The companies include the British American Tobacco, CCECC, Dana Group, Olam International Limited, Hong Xing Steel Company Limited, Visafone, African Wire, Starcomms and Allied Limited, and Aarti Steel Nigeria Limited.
Others are Abyem-Diva International Limited, Gagasel International, FrieslandCapina WAMPO, Etco Nigeria, Edic Chemicals and Allied Distributors, De United Foods, Don Climax Group, Skill G Nigeria Limited, Premium Seafood, and La Rauf Nigeria Limited.
Also included are Standard Metallurgical Company Limited, Kam Industries, IBG Investment Limited, Orazulike Trading Company Limited and Popular Foods Limited, A-Kelnal Integrated & Logistics Services, African Industries, African Tiles & Ceramics as well as ZTE Nigeria.
The Senate had mandated the panel to probe into the alleged over N30tn revenue leakages in the import and export value chain between 2006 and 2017.
The committee had met with indicted commercial banks as well as government agencies, while it had penned over 60 companies for investigation over their alleged sharp practices leading to revenue loss.
According to Uzodinma, investigations carried out by the joint committee showed several forms of infractions that had cost the country huge amount of money.
He said, “It is no longer going to be business as usual. We have directed the Nigeria Police Force to arrest the heads of the firms and bring them before us. If we can suspend our recess as lawmakers to see to the end of this investigation, I see no reason why the firms that have been indicted would not come to defend themselves.”
The chairman asked the firms who had appeared before the panel to study the documents given to them and report back to defend themselves against their alleged infractions next week.
Meanwhile, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, has said the Senate, as a body or through its committees, has the power to conduct investigations and take evidence in respect of the investigations that it is conducting, but that the Senate should desist from exercising all its powers all the time.
He said even though they had the power, seeking to deploy it every now and then would be childish and amount to a mockery of the legislative process.
He said, “These powers are exercised by the Senate but these powers are limited and not untrammeled or arbitrary. The Senate has the power to summon any public officer or any person that is connected to any matter over which it has powers.
“Powers are best used when they are not used at all and they serve as potential threat to ensure compliance. So, you can’t be dishing out order for arrest every time.
“Yes, these powers are there for them to summon, take evidence, ensure compliance with summons by effecting an arrest if necessary, but these are not powers that are resorted to every now and then as if it’s something that is commonplace.”