Senate to minister, agency: return alleged diverted N14.3b

Industry, Trade & Investment Minister Dr Okechukwu Enelemah and the Acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority ( NEPZA), Terhemba Nongo, were yesterday told to return N14.3 billion allegedly diverted from 2017 NEPZA vote.

The Senate asked the duo to return the funds into the treasury without further delay.

In a letter written by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Senator Mohammed Nakudu Sabo (Jigawa Southwest),obtained by our reporter, the Red Chamber warned the minister and NEPZA boss to either comply with the directive or be ready to face serious legislative sanction.

The committee claimed that the alleged diverted N14.3 billion was “hurriedly transferred from NEPZA account into a private company called Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company account between April 8 and 10 despite earlier warnings.

The chairman said that the fund was first warehoused in NEPZA account with the CBN from 2017 budget allocations before it moved into the private company account about two weeks ago.

Sabo told reporters yesterday: “To prevent this fraud, my committee wrote a letter to CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele on the 8th of this month not to release the money but very annoyingly, the money is confirmed to have been released and transferred by NEPZA in collaboration with the Minister into a private company account.

“This is unacceptable and will not be condoned, hence the need for the money to be returned into national treasury.”

The Committee in the letter entitled: “Re: Transfer of N14.3 billion from NEPZA Account to Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company” addressed to the minister, said: “Pursuant to section 80(2)(3) and (4) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Financial Regulation sections 313 and 314 and Senate Standing Order 98, 14(a-s) of 2015 as amended, we hereby write to you on the above matter.

“That you should return the transferred N14.3 billion from NEPZA account to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company account.

“That the transferred money must be returned back into the treasury within one week from the date of receipt of this letter.

“The available information to the committee shows that the said money is in the account of the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company Account unappropriated for.

“That failure to comply with this directive will be visited with appropriate legislative action against your ministry as well as the company.

The letter dated April 25 and signed by Sabo, was received in the minister’s office the following day.

The NEPZA had on the April 11 at the 2019 budget defence session with the committee, declared that warehousing of the N14.3 billion was not done fraudulently but in line with the Country’s  Industrial Revolution Plan and approval of a memo submitted to that effect by Enelamah in June 2018.

According to him, in 2014, the Federal Government introduced the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) in its bid to promote diversification of the economy and address the fundamental issues affecting productive activities.

The minister said: “Subsequently, the present administration also introduced the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). The ERGP adopted the substantial ideas and strategies identified in the NIRP.

“The total sum of N48.14 billion was appropriated in the 2017 Appropriation Act for NEPZA out of which the sum of N20.5 billion only was released.

“However, there was a turn of event. A memo dated 28th June, 2018, was submitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment seeking among other things:  “The recognition of a newly formed company named the Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company (NSEZCO) as the entity for all FGN investments and proprietary interests in existing and future SEZs.

Efforts to obtain the reaction of the minister proved abortive

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