The Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah had a rough time convincing the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment on Monday over the allocation of N42.091 billion to a ‘private firm’ in the 2019 budget.
The committee, which rejected the 2019 budgetary proposal N15.6 billion for the ministry, insisted that Special Economic Zone Company is a private company contrary to claims by the minister that it is owned by the Federal Government.
The committee had confronted the minister, during the budget defence session to explain why his ministry proposed N15.6 billion as its 2019 budget but asked the National Assembly to approve N42bn for a private firm.
The minister, during his presentation, presented a booklet containing the 2019 budget proposals for the agencies under his ministry to the committee by Senator Sabo Mohammed.
Mohammed however his drew the attention to item 2 on page 7 of the booklet which has N42.091bn budgetary allocation for the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company, insisting that the company was not known to be one of the 17 agencies under the ministry.
The minister however explained that the company was established through a presidential initiative and given approval at a cabinet meeting in May 2018.
He said: “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 taxing. So, the President directed that we should bring other partners that can contribute to whatever money we have to build world-class infrastructure which led to the establishment of the company in partnership with other investors.”
When asked about the owners of the company, the minister said it was owned by the Federal Government and other shareholders, which the committee disagreed with.
Mohammed informed the minister that a document obtained by them from the Corporate Affairs Commission signed by Terver Ayua-Jor, for the Registrar General, is at variance with his submission, adding that the letter from CAC states how the company was registered.
Mohammed added that the letter showed that the firm’s name was Nigeria Sez Investment Company Limited and not Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company as presented by the minister, adding that It was established on June 12, 2018, a week to the signing of the 2018 budget
Mohammed said: “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 is limited by share which, as also shown, gives the Federal Government 25 per cent and 75 per cent to the private individuals.”
Efforts by the minister to convince the panel failed, as he was directed to forward detailed written explanation on how the company was accommodated in the appropriation list, its management staff, its staff strength and statement of account.
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