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FG clears air on N14b transferred from NEPZA to ‘private firm’

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Minister blames predecessor for confusion

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, has cleared the air on the suspicious N14 billion transferred to the Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company (NSEZCO) from the accounts of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA).At the investigative hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Adebayo said the transaction was in order, insisting that NSEZCO was not a private firm, but wholly owned by the Federal Government.

He, however, faulted the procedure adopted by his predecessor, Okechukwu Enelama, in registering NSEZCO, saying the process created confusion, which made many Nigerians believe that it was a private establishment.Pending the completion of investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Directorate of State Services (DSS), he said he had to suspend further action on the company when he assumed office. He explained to the Senate panel that the N14 billion was with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

According to him, necessary steps to perfect the registration of NSEZCO to clear the ambiguity surrounding its status would be carried out as soon as DSS and EFCC complete their findings.His words, “The company in question (NSEZCO) is not a private company. It is set up by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in cooperation with private investors invited by the ministry.

“The Federal Government is a major shareholder in the company. The issue is that my predecessor (Enelama), at the time of setting up the company, adopted a process that created an impression that it is a private company. “The setting up of the company has a Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval. It also has the presidential endorsement. It is not a private company. It belongs to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but with the participation of private shareholders.”

He noted that his predecessor felt that since government was targeting the private sector to participate in it, he believed that the company should be set up outside the normal ministry’s processes. The Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Barau Jibrin, said the panel would withhold the N8.9 billion the ministry proposed as capital vote for the year pending the resolution of the issues surrounding the establishment of NSEZCO. The Senate panel had last Thursday summoned Adebayo and the Acting, Managing Director of NEPZA, Terhembe Nongo, over the N14 billion allocated to a “private company” in the ministry’s budget.


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