Nigeria: Ministry Officials Jittery as Lawmakers Uncover Cans of Worms in Budget

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Top officials of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment are not at ease as the Legislative arm of the Federal Government is seeking explanations into some suspected spurious spending in the ministry’s 2018 budget and padding in this year’s estimates.

The Green Chamber of Nigeria’s bicameral Legislature has already summoned the Minister in-charge of the ministry, Okey Enelamah, to appear in person before the House of Representatives, to explain the allegedly uncovered anomalies on their 2018 budget spending and 2019 estimates.

The House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okey Enelamah, to appear in person before it, to explain certain anomalies on the Ministry’s 2018 budget spendings and 2019 estimates.

While engaging the ministry’s team led by the Permanent Secretary, Edet Akpan Sunday, the House Committee on Commerce led by Sylvester Ogbaga, faulted the transfer of N14billion to the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority  (NEPZA).

The summoned minister, Okechukwu Enelamah, oversees policy-making and implementation relating to industrialisation of the economy, development of small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), promotion of exports and foreign direct investment, and the expansion of trade.

The overall objective of the ministry is to ensure that policies and actions lead to inclusive growth, wealth and job creation, poverty reduction and ensure enhanced service delivery in a manner that will stimulate the growth of the domestic economy for self-reliance and export.

His vision is to work in partnership with all the relevant stakeholders – government, private sector, agencies; to boost Nigeria’s investment attractiveness. This will entail improving the ease of doing business, attracting foreign direct invest, growing the contribution of non-oil economy to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creating jobs.

Prior to taking office on November 11, 2015, Enelamah worked as the Chief Executive Officer of Africa Capital Alliance (ACA), an investment and financial advisory firm which he co-founded in 1998. ACA has now grown to be recognised as a leading private equity firm in West Africa.

Enelamah has 27 years of private sector experience spanning finance, consulting and auditing (Arthur Andersen & Co.), and private equity. Before co-founding ACA he gained private equity experience working at Zephyr Management L.P. in New York, and South Africa Capital Growth Fund in Johannesburg.

ACA’s five funds – Capital Alliance Private Equity Funds I, II, III & IV, and Capital Alliance Property Investment Company (CAPIC) – have raised more than One Billion US Dollars for investment in companies based in Nigeria and across West Africa.

He has served on or chaired the boards of Cornerstone Insurance Plc, UAC of Nigeria Plc, eTranzact International, Flavour Foods Limited, and Landmark Property Development Company; as well as industry groups Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA), and Africa Venture Capital Association (AVCA).

The embattled minister holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree from the University of Nigeria (1985), and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business (1994). He is also a Chartered Accountant (1992), and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) (1997).

However, the Sylvester Ogbaga Committee  was not satisfied with the explanation given, asking if the fund was  appropriated, vired or warehoused in NEPZA. The Committee also expressed shock why a supposedly Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to be ran by a private company  with 75 percent ownership had no financial commitment while the Federal Government has paid it’s 25 percent or N14 billion fully.

As a result, the Reps’ panel requested the minister to appear before it with the Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU) as well as the shareholding structure and the modus operandi of the company involved. They are equally expecting the explanation of the ministry’s team on ‘fresh’ recruitment of over 100 staff into the ministry about three years ago without the knowledge of the parliament.

The House Committee was not also convinced by the explanation of the Permanent Secretary on the allocation and spending of N250 million by the ministry on meetings, inspections and programs in 2018.

While the Committee became suspicious when another N250 million was allocated to negotiations in 2019 budget estimates, the legislators said details, including names of officers and programmes involved in the 2018 travels and negotiations ‘’must’’ be provided when the minister appears before it.

The allocation of another N250 million  for commodity associations in the  2019 budget estimates was equally questioned by the Committee, and in addition, they wondered why the ministry kept allocating funds for procurement of computers and buses among others on yearly basis.

More worrisome to the panel was the commissioning of the country’s Trade Development policy to consultants at millions of naira, and again they wondered what the essence of the  ministry’s  bureaucracy that supposed to be the repository of trade and commerce is if it could not develop the policy for the country.

The Committee stepped down most of the critical aspects of the budget defense and presentation till the minster appeared before it.

This is playing out as the World Bank Group considers corruption a major challenge to its twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the poorest 40 percent of people in developing countries like Nigeria.

In addition, reducing corruption is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals and achieving the ambitious targets set for Financing for Development.

Corruption, according to them, has a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable, increasing costs and reducing access to services, including health, education and justice. Think, for example, of the effect of counterfeit drugs or vaccinations on the health outcomes of children and the life-long impacts that may have on them.

‘’Corruption erodes trust in government and undermines the social contract. This is cause for concern across the globe, but particularly in contexts of fragility and violence, as corruption fuels and perpetuates the inequalities and discontent that lead to fragility, violent extremism, and conflict.

‘’Corruption impedes investment, with consequent effects on growth and jobs. Countries capable of confronting corruption use their human and financial resources more efficiently, attract more investment, and grow more rapidly’’, the bank said.

The Bank Group recognises that corruption comes in different forms. It might impact service delivery, such as when police officers ask for bribes to perform routine services. Corruption might unfairly determine the winners of government contracts, with awards favoring friends or relatives of government officials. Or it might affect more fundamental issues of capture, such as how institutions work and who controls them, a form of corruption that is often the costliest in terms of overall economic impact. Each type of corruption is important and tackling all of them is critical to achieving progress and sustainable change.

For the bank, successful anti-corruption efforts are often led by a ‘coalition of concerned’ – politicians and senior government officials, the private sector, and by citizens, communities, and civil society organisations. Increasingly, successfully addressing corruption will require the concerted attention of both governments and businesses, as well as the use of the latest advanced technologies to capture, analyze, and share data to prevent, detect, and deter corrupt behavior.

The Bank Group leverages innovative technologies to strengthen public sector performance and productivity, confront corruption and to help foster greater trust and accountability, particularly in more fragile and conflict environments.

Much of the world’s costliest forms of corruption could not happen without institutions in wealthy nations: the private sector firms that give large bribes, the financial institutions that accept corrupt proceeds, and the lawyers and accountants who facilitate corrupt transactions. Data on international financial flows shows that money is moving from poor to wealthy countries in ways that fundamentally undermine development.

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