N14bn NEPZA diverted funds to NSEZCO still with CBN ― Trade Minister
• Says EFCC, DSS investigating the matter
The over N14 billion, part of Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) allocation allegedly diverted to Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company (NSEZCO) by the former minister of Industry, trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah has been said to be domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Making this clarification before the Senate Committee on Appropriation on Monday in Abuja, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adeniyi noted that the money was still under the custody of the apex Bank.
He explained that “nobody has touched a dime from the money” stating further that due to public outcry that NSEZCO, a private company was been allocated funds by the federal government, the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Security (DSS) are investigating the matter.
Though Otunba said NSEZCO was set up by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment incorporation with private investors. He added that the company had “FEC approval and Presidential Endorsement, so it is a government company.
“We believe the Federal Government should hold a share in the company and we have stepped down plans because investigation is still ongoing on the matter but once the investigation is concluded, we will look at the proper manner in which the money should be set up,” the Minister stated.
He said, “where there are mistakes, they will be corrected such that government will hold a proper share and the private investors too will hold a proper share.”
While addressing the Minister, Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Jibrin Barau said the Committee’s attention was brought to the misappropriation of N14 billion budgeted to a private company (NSEZCO) and “it became a matter in Senate and that the company is a private entity.
“It was reported that the sum of N14 billion was included in the budget of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for NSEZCO which was claimed to be a private company operated by former minister, Okechukwu Enelamah.”
Speaking further, he said the allegation was that the former minister, Okechukwu Enelamah had “illegally and fraudulent” transferred N14.37bn from the capital account of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) to a private company-Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company.
He also said the allegation claimed that out of the three directors of the company, two were serving aides of the minister.
It will be recalled that the President had increased the budget of NEPZA in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to over N50 billion being the highest the agency has ever received since creation in 1992 to enable infrastructural development at the industrial parks in the country.
In 2018 when the former minister set up NSEZCO and said the company would oversee the infrastructural development of industrial parks in Nigeria, the initiative received public outcry that the company was a private and had functions same as NEPZA.
The former Managing Director of NEPZA, Emmanuel Jime had many times publicly disagreed with the Enelamah over the initiative to use NSEZCO to develop the country’s industrial park instead NEPZA stating that the company was a product of illegality.
Although the former minister said the increase in allocation of NEPZA was to facilitate the Made in Nigeria initiative of the government known as project MINE to propel and accelerate development in the industrial centres using active private sector engagement.
Enelamah said NEPZA was only a custodian of the funds for project, an argument that that led the NEPZA to seek interpretation from Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) over the matter. The outcome was in favour of the minister.
The allegations and petitions over the matter degenerated to protest by the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) closing down the ministry at one point, the Association also wrote to the President and the National Assembly on the matter.