Heads May Roll At NEPZA Over N42b Leakage To NASS

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Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

The Presidency is angry over the leakage and misrepresentation of information on the N42 billion cash it had earmarked in this year’s budget for the takeoff of a new firm, Nigeria Special Economic Zones Investment Company, NSEZCO, under the supervision of the Trade and Investment Ministry.

The anger is said to be over discovery that key officials of NEPZA, betrayed the Federal Government by leaking the proposed special purpose vehicle, NSEZCO, deal and cash set aside for its takeoff to the National Assembly and requesting the members to block the budget and stop the entire deal for being ‘a private business being paraded as a public scheme’ by the administration.

Vanguard learned that the officials who leaked the NSEZCO budget to NASS, complained bitterly to the lawmakers that the Ministry of Trade and Investment, which is driving the proposed project, hijacked its core function and gave it to a private company being promoted by some top administration officials and asked them not to approve the N42 billion outlay for the new outfit.

The officials, it was learned, also went the extra mile by leaking the key shareholders of NSEZCO to the NASS Committee members and challenged them to summon the Minister of Trade and Investments, Dr. Okey Enelamah, and other key officials of the ministry for questioning, something that was immediately embarked on.

But the Presidency, it was gathered, yesterday, is upset by the action of the officials, who are believed to have been actuated by pecuniary rather than national interest in taking ‘unprecedented’ betraying steps to sell out their parent ministry, according to a top government official.

The source said that the Presidency was concerned over insinuations given to the deal by some NESZCO officials and lawmakers after the Federal Executive Council had approved the deal and the cash allocation for its immediate takeoff to drive investments through three pilot centres in Enyimba Economic City in Abia, Lekki-Epe Model Industrial Park and Funtua Cotton Cluster.

The government official said: “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 Industry, Trade & Investment Minister had done.

“But despite the ruling of the Attorney-General and the direction of the Industry 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 said to be concerned that such a conduct of some of NEPZA officials if proven would be a flagrant disobedience of clear presidential directives and initiatives. At the recent FEC meeting held after the Senate public hearing, sources said the Council, chaired by the President himself reaffirmed the plans and strategies designed by the Industry Ministry,” the source said.