Senate Panel Vows To Resolve NEPZA Alleged N14bn Scam
The Senate Committee on Trade and Investment on Tuesday vowed to get to the root of the N14,376,027,584.65 illegally transferred from the 2017 Appropriation Budget of the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority to the Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Rose Okoh, stated this during the budget defence of the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
She said the Senate was aware of the existing legislative query on the ministry and NEPZA over the N14.3bn said to have been illegally transferred from the 2017 Appropriation Budget of NEPZA to Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company.
She said, “This is a breach of the 2017 Appropriation Act. This committee intends to see the query and the inquiry to a logical conclusion. We will seek an explanation on how that sum got moved from government coffers ostensibly to a private company without due process and without the provision of goods and services.
“We are aware that some of the agencies such as NEPZA and Onne Oil and Gas Authority have overlapping functions. In our view, this needs to be streamlined to reduce wastages.”
Okoh said the ministry had critical roles to play in the development of the nation’s economy, adding that all the agencies under the ministry must be up and doing to achieve their set goals.
She said, “Henceforth, the committee will like to be appraised of details of your investment drive, especially the FDls and have details of the non-oil trade that Nigeria is currently engaged in.”
Responding, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mr Edet Akpan, said the N14.3bn in respect of NEPZA was an item NEPZA should be in a very proper position to explain to the committee.
He expressed the belief that NEPZA would find a way of doing that, adding, “But the idea of opening an equity company was the creative idea of the former minister.”
The permanent secretary said it was proper to have a centralised equity company that could manage all Free Trade Zones in the country.
“It was also believed that NEPZA and oil and gas free trade zone should concentrate on regulatory aspects (of their mandate) and not getting themselves involved in operations.
“That was why it was the decision that an equity company was necessary to be created. But then, in all he did throughout that period, he consulted very widely and he got the approval of the Federal Executive Council,” Akpan said.