The parliamentary debates on the N8.08 trillion 2019 budget proposal have already begun, even as the Senate Appropriation Committee was recently given two weeks ultimatum for the submission of its final report to the National Assembly.
In the wake of this development, the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, yesterday, reportedly uncovered N42 billion fund allegedly allocated to a private company in the 2019 budget of the ministry.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, appeared before the Senate Committee to defend the Ministry’s 2019 budget. In the course of his presentation, the Senate Committee’s Chairman, Senator Sabo Mohammed (APC Jigawa North West), called the attention of the Minister to the sum of N42 billion allocated to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company. According to him, the company is fictitious.
Following the Minister’s presentation, Senator Sabo once again referred to item 2 on page 7 of the proposed budget, which contained N42.091 billion allocation to the Nigeria Special Economic Zone; a company that reportedly does not exist. This resulted in the lawmakers’ subsequent rejection of the proposed N15.633 billion 2019 budget presented by the Ministry.
The minister’s attempted Boycott
The Minister of Trade and Investment attempted to justify the inclusion of the N42 billion alleged fraud, stating that the company was established through a Presidential initiative and was given approval during a Cabinet meeting in May 2018.
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“One of the areas that this government has focused on is infrastructure. The second area is industrialisation and the two have something in common.”
“If the government tries to do it alone, it would be extremely tasking. So the President directed that we should bring other partners that can combine with whatever monies we have to build world class infrastructure which led to the establishment of the company in partnership with other investors.”
Again, the minister was asked to expatiate on the ownership of the supposed fake company. He responded that the company is jointly owned by both the Federal Government of Nigeria and other shareholders which he refused to disclose.
Senate Committee on Trade and Investment said the Minister lied
However, the Senate Committee Chairman objected to the claim made by the embattled Minister. He reportedly presented a document obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which contained information about the company’s ownership.
According to the CAC document presented by the Chairman, the actual company’s name is Nigeria Sez Investment Company Limited as against Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company as listed in the proposed budget presented.
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More about “Nigeria Sez Investment Company Limited”
The CAC document, as read by Senator Sabo, also shed more light on the ownership of the said company:
“Ownership of the company, as clearly stated in the document obtained from CAC on the 26th of last month, designated as Directors Dr. Bakari Wadinga, Mr. Olufemi Edun and Ms Oluwadara Owoyemi.
“The document clearly states that the company is a private company and that liability of the members are limited by share which is also shown, gives Federal Government 25% and 75% to the private individuals.”
This is a financial ambush, the Senate Committee declared
The Minister to persuade/convince the Committee’s Chairman and its members that the initiative was driven by the Government, but all to no avail. The Committee stood its ground by describing the process as a misnomer and financial ambush on the nation’s commonwealth.
The Committee, thereby, gave directives to the Minister to forward all the details on how the company got into the 2019 appropriation list. He is also to present information about the company’s supposed management staff, list of staff strength, and account statement.
More on the budget proposal by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment
According to the breakdown of Nigeria’s 2019 budget as obtained by Niarametrics, the N42 billion is under the Special Economic Zone Projects.