The Senate has summoned Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Trade and Investment, over the allocation of N15 billion to a private company in the ministry’s 2020 budget.
The upper chamber also invited Terhembe Nongo, the acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), to also explain the agency’s role in the appropriation of such amount.
The summons was issued on Thursday by the Senate Committee on Appropriation following a report presented by Senator Rose Oko, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment.
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Senator Oko told the committee that both Adebayo and Nongo were unable to provide a concrete response when asked about the sum during the ministry’s budget defence.
“When they came for budget defence, the Minister and the Permanent Secretary said they didn’t know anything about the issue as it is between Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority and the company,” she said.
Senator Oko said she requested for the shareholding structure from Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation, adding that the document failed to disclose the identity of the company’s shareholders.
Upon her demand for an explanation from NEPZA, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade stated that the government agency claimed that the money was allocated to them in 2017.
She, however, said the unnamed company was registered in 2018, adding that more money was disbursed to the firm recently despite the controversy surrounding its identity.
Senator Oko said: “We have requested the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority to give details of what happened and their response was the money was allocated to them in 2017 and as of then the company was not in existence.
“The company was registered in 2018. Meanwhile, the money was already allocated in 2017 and domiciled in CBN. More so, N15 billion was released two days ago to the same company.”
Responding, Jibrin Barau, Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, summoned the trade minister and acting MD of NEPZA to appear before his committee on Monday to clarify the issue.
Barau said: “We will create time for you (Oko) come with the Minister and the Permanent Secretary alongside the MD of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority on Monday by 11 am to correct this anomaly.”
The 8th Senate had directed the acting MD of NEPZA to return the sum of 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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