Senate committee directs minister, NEPZA boss to return N14.3 billion

Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah
Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah

The Senate has directed the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah, and the acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Terhemba Nongo, to return N14.3 billion to the federal government, the Punch newspaper has reported.

The demand was contained in a letter written by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Mohammed Sabo (APC, Jigawa South-West).

The Senate said the money was diverted from the 2017 budget of NEPZA.

In the letter, Mr Sabo asked the minister and the NEPZA boss to either refund the money immediately or be prepared to face dire consequences.

The lawmaker told journalists that the money was transferred from NEPZA’s account into the account of a private company, the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company.

He said the money was “hurriedly” transferred between April 8 and 10, ignoring an earlier warning not to do so.

He also said the money was first lodged in NEPZA’s account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2017 budget allocations and thereafter, moved into the private firm’s account.

“To prevent this fraud, my committee wrote a letter to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on April 8, asking him not to release the money.

“But we have confirmed that the money has been released and transfered by NEPZA, in collaboration with the minister, into a private company’s account.

“This is unacceptable to us. Hence, we have directed that money be returned,” Punch quoted him saying.

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When contacted, the minister told PREMIUM TIMES that his office “will send out a press release soon.”

The letter dated April 25 read: “Re: Transfer of N14.3bn from NEPZA Account to Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company.”

“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 N14.3bn that was transferred from NEPZA’s account to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company’s account.

“That the transferred money must be returned to the treasury within one week from the date of receipt of this letter.

“The available information shows that the said money is in the account of the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company unappropriated for.

“That failure to comply with this directive will be visited with appropriate legislative action against your ministry as well as the company.”

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