The Senate has ordered the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, and the Acting Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Terhemba Nongo, to immediately return N14.3 billion of the agency’s 2017 budget votes to the treasury.
A letter by the chairman of its Committee on Trade and Investment, Mohammed Nakudu Sabo (APC Jigawa South West) threatened a “serious legislative action” in the event of non-compliance.
The anger of the panel, according to Sabo, who briefed reporters yesterday in Abuja, followed the alleged questionable manner the fund was “hurriedly transferred from NEPZA account into that of a private company called Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company between eighth and 10th of this month despite earlier warnings.”
The lawmaker claimed that the money was first warehoused in the agency’s account with the CBN from its 2017 budget allocations before allegedly being moved into the private company’s account about two weeks ago.
He alleged: “ To prevent this fraud, my committee wrote a letter to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele on the eighth 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 to the national treasury.”
The committee, in the letter dated April 25, 2019 and titled “Re: Transfer of N14.3 billion from NEPZA Account to Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company” and addressed to the minister, noted: “Pursuant to Section 80(2)(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Financial Regulation Sections 313 and 314 and the 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 N14.3 billion transferred from NEPZA account to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company.
“That the transferred money must be returned to the treasury within one week from the date of receipt of this letter.
“That failure to comply with this directive will be visited with an appropriate legislative action against your ministry as well as the company.”
The NEPZA boss, had earlier this month during the 2019 budget defence of his agency, contended that the warehousing of the fund was transparently carried out.
He had equally maintained that the action was consistent with the nation’s Industrial Revolution Plan and got approval in the wake of a memo submitted to that effect by the minister in June 2018.