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Minister justifies N14bn transfered from NEPZA

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Niyi Adebayo

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, has explained that the N14billion transfered to the accounts of the Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company, NSEZCO from the accounts of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA was in order.

Adebayo, who stated this at the investigative hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Appropriations, however insisted that NSEZCO was not a private firm but wholly owned by the federal government which is also holding majority shares in trust for private investors.

The minister, however said the procedure adopted by his predecessor, Okechukwu Enelama, in registering NSEZCO created confusion which made many Nigerians believe that it was a private establishment.

Adebayo said he had to suspend further action on the company when he assumed office pending the completion of investigations currently being carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Directorate of State Services, DSS.

He assured the Senate panel that the N14billion transfered to the firm’s accounts when his predecessor was in office is now domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

The minister pledged that necessary steps to perfect the registration of NSEZCO to clear the ambiguity surrounding its status would be carried as soon as the security agents and the anti – graft completes their probes.

“The company in question (NSEZCO), is not a private company. It is being set up by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and investment in cooperation with private investors who are were invited by the Ministry.

“The federal government is a major shareholders in the company. The issue is that my predecessor (Okechukwu Enelama), at the time of setting up the company, adopted a process that created an impression being taken by a lot of people that it is a private company.

“The setting up of the company has a Federal Executive Council approval, it also has presidential endorsement. It is not a private company. It belongs to the Federal Republic of Nigeria but with the participation of private shareholders.

“The amount of money (N14billion) that was appropriated to it is intact, it is in the custody of the Federal Government of Nigeria, nobody has touched it.

“The matter is being investigated by security agencies and once the investigation is concluded, we would sit down and make sure that proper processes are followed to make sure that the company is properly incorporated with the proper representative of the shareholder and the board.

“After this, we will now move forward with the programme we have for the company.
We have put the entire process on hold until the outcome of the investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, I will take action,” he stressed.

Adebayo explained that the idea of setting up the company was to have an industrial zone where special industrial activities could take place.

He noted that his predecessor felt that since government was targeting the private sector to participate in it, the former Minister believed that the company should be set up outside the normal ministry’s processes.

However, the chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Barau Jibrin, said the panel would withhold the N8.9billion the Ministry has proposed as its capital vote for the year pending the resolution of the issues surrounding the establishment of NSEZCO.

Jibrin said, “Honourable Minister, we are going to put everything on hold until the matter is resolved, for us we won’t make provision for you this year.

“The constitution has made made provision for this kind of a case, if at the end of the day, it is resolved, we would welcome a supplementary appropriation and we would approve money for the Ministry.”

The Senate panel had on Thursday last week, summoned the Adebayo, and the Acting, Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, Terhembe Nongo, over the N14 bn allocated to a “private company” in the ministry’s budget .

The Senate Committee on Appropriations issued the summons following the presentation of report of Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Senator Rose Oko.

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