Trade Minister, NEPZA MD face Senate probe over alleged N15bn budget padding

Senators, on Thursday, summoned the Minister of Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, acting managing director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Terhembe Nongo, over N15 billion allocated to a private company in the budget .

The summon was sequel to the presentation of report of Senate committee on Trade and Investment, Rose Oko who informed the panel that during the budget defence of the Ministry, she asked the minister and permanent secretary on the purpose of the N15 billion in the budget which they were unable to defend .

According to Oko, “When the minister came for budget defence and the permanent secretary said they didn’t know anything about the issue as it is between Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and the company.”

Chairman of the committee, said the panel had asked for the shareholding structure from the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, but said the documents provided did not reveal the identity of the shareholders.

Oko informed the Senate committee on Appropriation that they requested the NEPZA provide what appened and their response was the money was allocated to them in 2017 and as at then the company was not in existence.

According to her, “we have requested NEPZA to give full details of what happened and their response was the money was allocated to them in 2017 and as at then the company was not in existence.”

Oko told her colleagues that the money was released in 2017 to the company when it was not yet registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

She said: “The company was registered in 2018; meanwhile the money was already allocated in 2017 which is domiciled in CBN. More so, N15billion was released two days ago to the same company.”

The chairman of Appropriation committee, Jubril Barau, however said that the committee directed the NEPZA boss, the minister and the permanent secretary of the Ministry to appear on Monday to correct the anomaly.

According to him, “we will fix a date for you to come with the Minister and the permanent secretary alongside the MD of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) on Monday by 11am to correct this anomaly.”

The Eight Senate had directed NEPZA, to return N14.3 billion to the purse of the Federal Government. It claimed that the money was diverted from the 2017 budget of NEPZA.

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