FG Uncovers NEPZA Officials’Attempt To Sabotage N42bn SEZ
The Federal Government has uncovered attempts by some officials of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority to sabotage efforts aimed at creating Special Economic Zones for the country.
A top government official who spoke with journalists on the condition of anonymity in Abuja on Sunday said the NEPZA officials were of the view that the N42bn allocated to the Nigeria Special Economic Zones Investment Company in the 2019 Appropriation Bill should have been allocated to the authority.
He said that was what informed the decision of the officials to “surreptitiously” take the matter to some senators, therefore causing a misunderstanding of the strategy adopted for the implementation of the SEZ.
The Senate Committee on Trade and Investment had on April 1 rejected the 2019 budgetary proposal of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for allegedly voting N42bn for a ‘private’ company.
The panel claimed that the firm, Nigeria Special Economic Zones Investment Company, was a private company, against the ministry’s claim that it was a government firm.
But the source explained that the Presidency was concerned about the negative publicity the issue attracted, hence the decision to address the issue at a recent meeting of the Federal Executive Council.
He said the position of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was that the NEPZA officials acted in disobedience of presidential directives and initiatives.
He, however, did not disclose whether the officials had been identified and the kind of punishment being contemplated by government for them.
He said, “The issue is the discovery that a government parastatal in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Industry, the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority, is said to have created a confusion when its top officials misinformed some members of the Senate about funds allotted for the implementation of the Special Economic Zones via the establishment of a public-private partnership special vehicle firm named the Nigeria Special Economic Zones Investment Company.
“While NEPZA had argued that the allocation of over N42bn to NSEZCO ought to be allocated to it, rather than NSEZCO, the Attorney-General of the Federation had clarified the law and explained that it was proper for the money to be allocated to the implementing liability company, NSEZCO, formed for the specific purpose as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment had done.
“But despite the ruling of the Attorney-General and the direction of the minister, officials of NEPZA were said to have surreptitiously taken the matter to some senators, causing a misunderstanding of the strategy adopted for the implementation of the Special Economic Zones.
“Both the President and the VP are concerned that such a conduct of some of NEPZA officials, if proven, would be a flagrant disobedience of clear presidential directives and initiatives.”
The source explained that at a FEC meeting held after the issue was reported, Presdient Buhari himself reaffirmed the plans and strategies designed by the ministry.
He added that a clarification from the Executive arm of government to the Senate on the issues it raised on the interim company’s directors and the need for the investment firm had been sent to the federal lawmakers.