Senate to probe Trade Ministry, NEPZA over N14.3bn fraud allegation

The Senate Committee on Trade and Investment has again raised the issue of an allegation of illegal transfer of N14.3billion from the 2017 budgetary allocation meant for the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) to a private company.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Rose Oko on Tuesday, October 22, announced that the committee will investigate the transfer of the funds to Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company, a privately owned company.

She made the announcement when the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Maryam Katagum appeared to defend her ministry’s budget.

In 2017, the 8th Senate panel mandated the former Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah and the Managing Director of NEPZA to refund the money.

Oko noted that the transaction was an infringement to the 2017 Appropriation Act and requested details of how the money was transferred to a private company account without due process.

“The committee is aware of the existing legislative query on the ministry and the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) over N14.3 billion, illegally transferred from the 2017 Appropriation Budget of NEPZA to Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company. This is a breach of the 2017 Appropriation Act.

“This committee intends to see the query and inquiry to a logical conclusion and seek explanation”.

In his reaction, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Edet Akpan said that NEPZA has detailed information about the transaction.

He, however, noted that the former Minister, Okechukwu Enelemah midwived the process with the approval of the Federal Executive Council.

He said: “The N14billion in respect of NEPZA is an item NEPZA should be in a very proper position to explain to the Committee. But the idea of opening an equity company was the creative idea of the former Minister.

“He believed it was more proper to have a centralized equity company that could manage all Free Trade Zones in the country – where investors could contribute towards a particular purse so that money realized from there would now be applied to create and develop free trade zones.”

Akpan said the Minister also requested from the Budget Office the sum of N48billion appropriated for purpose of the investment in 2017 but N14billion was released.

Ng daily

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