House to investigate ‘extortion’ at Nigeria’s airports

6. The House of Representatives yesterday, approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for ongoing external loans to the tune of $8,325,526,537 (USD) and €490,000,000 (Euros) under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan.

The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the reports of cargo flights leaving Nigeria empty because of alleged extortion by government officials at the airports.

The House mandated its committees on customs, finance, aviation, and agricultural services to investigate the impact of extortion on the export of local products.

This resolution was sequel to a motion moved by the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), on Wednesday during plenary.

Mr Okechukwu said his motion is based on a report in The Guardian Newspaper, which said that foreign cargo airlines were departing Nigeria empty due to extortion and multiple charges.

He informed his colleagues that “export is supposed to be free in Nigeria under extant laws and regulations, except for the airline’s charges and payments to ground handlers.”

Citing the report further, he said “11 out of 16 sundry charges lined up against air cargo are illegal and that official bottlenecks, extortion, exorbitant and multiple charges are discouraging cargo airlines from operating in Nigeria as they prefer cargos from other African countries which offer them more favourable conditions.”

He said Nigeria is losing $250 billion of its agro-allied market potential due to import-to-export airfreight ratio imbalance. According to him, the import-to-export ratio stands at 87:13.

Meanwhile, Shamsudeen Bello (APC, Kano) called for the involvement of the Independent Corrupt and other Related offences Commission (ICPC) in the investigation.

Henry Nwawuba (APC, Imo), stated that extortion was used in the context of multiple charges, not an act of corruption.

Also, Mr Okechuckwu prayed that the House condemn the multiple charges.

However, the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, moved an amendment that the prayer should be deleted until the investigation is conducted by the committees.

The committee was mandated to report back to the House within two weeks.

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