Panel probes N14.3bn NEPZA fund in pri­vate ac­count

The Punch - - FRONT PAGE - Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has set up a com­mit­tee to look into the trans­fer of N14.37bn from the cap­i­tal ac­count of the Nige­ria ex­port Pro­cess­ing Zones Author­ity to a pri­vate com­pany, Nige­ria Spe­cial eco­nomic Zones Com­pany.

The Act­ing Manag­ingdi­rec­tor of NEPZA, Mr Bitrus Dawuk, con­firmed the de­vel­op­ment dur­ing an in­ter­view in Abuja on his plans for the agency.

he said the com­mit­tee which was set up on De­cem­ber 23 was ex­pected to look at some of the is­sues sur­round­ing the con­tro­ver­sial N14.37bn NEPZA fund cur­rently domi­ciled at the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria.

The trans­fer of the fund from NEPA ac­count had been a source of con­tro­versy in the last one year.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Se­nior Civil Ser­vants of Nige­ria had in 2019 writ­ten a pe­ti­tion to the Pres­i­dent, Ma­jor Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari (retd.), seek­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the role played by the im­me­di­ate past Min­is­ter of In­dus­try, Trade and In­vest­ment, Dr Okechukwu enelamah, in the trans­fer of the fund.

The as­so­ci­a­tion had claimed in the pe­ti­tion that based on its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it was dis­cov­ered that the com­pany’s real name was Nige­ria Sez In­vest­ment Com­pany Lim­ited and not Nige­ria Spe­cial eco­nomic Zones Com­pany.

It claimed that out of the three di­rec­tors of the com­pany, two were aides to the for­mer min­is­ter.

The as­so­ci­a­tion also claimed, “This com­pany is fraud­u­lently de­signed and cre­ated to take over the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of NEPZA, a de­vel­op­ment that negates the core prin­ci­ples of the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fight against cor­rup­tion and fraud.”

Speak­ing on the de­vel­op­ment, the NEPZA boss said the com­mit­tee was made up of seven mem­bers out of which three were from

NEPZA and four from the Min­istry of In­dus­try, Trade and In­vest­ment.

he said, “The gov­ern­ment has set up a com­mit­tee made up of three from NEPZA and four from the min­istry to look into the NEPZA and SZECO is­sue.

“The com­mit­tee was set up on the 23rd of De­cem­ber by the gov­ern­ment.”

To at­tract in­vest­ments in the free trade zones, Dawuk said there was a need for an amend­ment of the Act set­ting up the agency.

he ex­plained that the Act set­ting up NEPZA, which was en­acted about 27 years ago, should be amended to re­flect the cur­rent re­al­i­ties in the ex­port pro­cess­ing zones.

he added that it had be­come im­per­a­tive for the amend­ment of the Act to boost busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties at the free trade zones.

Apart from boost­ing busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties in the free trade zones, he said the amend­ment of the Act would also help NEPZA to be self­sus­tain­ing, to cre­ate jobs and gen­er­ate wealth.

he said, “we need to amend the NEPZA Act to en­able us to at­tract the needed in­vest­ments for the free trade zones.

“The cur­rent Act that set up NEPZA is about 27 years and there are many ar­eas that the Act did not look into.”

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