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The Senate on Monday asked the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelemah, and Acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority ( NEPZA), Engineer Terhemba Nongo, to return alleged diverted N14.3 billion from 2017 NEPZA budget to the national treasury.

It said that the minister and the agency should return the fund to the national treasury without further delay.

The Senate, in a letter written by Chairman, Committee on Trade and Investment, Senator Mohammed Nakudu Sabo (Jigawa South West), warned the Minister and NEPZA boss to either comply with the directive or be ready to face serious legislative sanction.

The committee claimed the alleged diverted N14.3billion was “hurriedly transferred from NEPZA account into a private company called Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company Account between 8th and 10th of this month despite earlier warnings given.”

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.

The Committee chairman told reporters: “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 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 N14.3billion 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 N14.3bn 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 not appropriated 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, signed by Senator Mohammed Nakudu Sabo, was received in the Minister’s office on April 26th.

The NEPZA 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.

“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 N48.14bn was appropriated in the 2017 Appropriation Act for NEPZA out of which the sum of N20.5bn 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 Honorable 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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