By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate has asked Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah, and the Acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Terhemba Nongo, to return the allegedly diverted N14.3 billion from 2017 NEPZA budget to the national treasury.
In a letter to that effect by Chairman Senate Committer on Trade and Investment, Mohammed Nakudu Sabo (APC Jigawa South West), said the Minister and NEPZA boss should either comply or face sanctions.
Briefing journalists in Abuja Monday, Sabo said the anger of the committee resulted from the suspicious manner by which allegedly diverted fund was hurriedly transfered from NEPZA account to another account of a private company named: Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company Account between 8th and 10th of April despite earlier warnings.
The diverted money, according to the Chairman, was first warehoused in NEPZA account with the CBN from 2017 budget allocations before moving it into the private company account about two weeks ago.
“To prevent this fraud, my committee wrote a letter to the 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 transfered 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”, he said.
The Committee in the letter titled: “ Re: Transfer of N14.3billion from NEPZA Account to Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company” and 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 transfered N14.3bn from NEPZA account to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company account.
“That the transferred money must be returned back to 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 25th April 2019 and personally signed by Senator Mohammed Nakudu Sabo was received in the Minister’s office on the 26th of this month.
It would be recalled that NEPZA Managing Director had on the 11th of this month at 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 the Hon Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah in June 2018.
According to him, in 2014, the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) in its bid to promote diversification of the economy and address the fundamental issues affecting productive activities.