Reps accuse Industry Minister of diverting $35m
By admin On 7 Sep, 2018 At 03:17 AM | Categorized As Politics | With 0 Comments

The House of Representatives has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the World Bank, accusing the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelemah of allegedly diverting $35 million meant for the Growth Employment (GEM) Project to an illegal small and medium enterprise (SME) fund. The GEM is an employment project conceptualized by the Federal Government under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment aimed at job creation and increased nonoil growth through the empowerment of 4,000 SMEs in ICT, light manufacturing, entertainment industry and agro-processing etc.

While the World Bank is providing a concessionary loan of $160 million domiciled in the project, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) provided a grant of 90 million pounds. It will be recalled that the House had, on November 2, 2017 and February 1, 2018, passed different motions directing the minister to suspend the planned movement of the $35 million from GEM project to another SME fund and discontinue any processes towards the consideration or approval of the new restructuring proposal for the creation of the SME investment fund.

But following the minister’s disregard for the resolutions, the deputy chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Hon. Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue), in separate letters to the president and the World Bank, accused the minister of colluding with his personal staff, diverting $35 million and violating due process.

In both letters, dated August dated 24, 2018 and documents made available to New Telegraph, the lawmaker alleged that three months into the GEM project, which is being funded by the World Bank and the DFID, the minister appointed a former staff of his personal company, African Capital Alliance, as the project coordinator in violation of the laid down rules and guidelines. In the letters titled “breach of the World Bank principles and good governance practice on the management of the Growth Employment (GEM) project in Nigeria,” the lawmaker alleged that the minister has converted the project into his personal project, engaging a staff of his own company, Mr. Ugo Ikemba, as project coordinator and reducing the number of benefitting small and medium enterprises from the initial 4,000 to only 23 MSMEs. According to the lawmaker, the said Ugo Ikemba has restructured the entire project and facilitated the release of $35 million from the Federal Ministry of Finance and created a “parallel SME investment fund to be managed by an independent private company to be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to dispense between $250,000 to $2 million each only 23 unidentified companies without government oversight or involvement.”

He further explained that while the initial project was to cater for 4,000 SMEs, the minister, through his appointed project coordinator, has unilaterally scaled it down to only 25 SME’s. “Why did the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment insist on engaging a former employee of his private firm, African Alliance Company, Ugo Ikemba on contract as the GEM project coordinator (with a salary of N4.7 million) in clear violation of the approved GEM project governance and implementation framework and the procedure for engagement of consultant,” he asked.

Continuing, the lawmaker queried: “Why did Ugo Ikemba, in just three months into his contract as GEM project coordinator, initiate the virement of $35 million of the original GEM project funds for the creation of a SME fund targeted at only 25 MSMEs projected to receive between $250,000 to $2 million? “Why is the minister displaying an insatiable desperation to use the GEM loan approved by the National Assembly for 4,000 MSMEs to create a private equity fund for only 25 MSMEs?” The letter also read:

“Mr. President should be aware that the GEM project intended to be strategic to job creation in the country currently does not have a project coordinator; the minister controls it directly on an appendage of his office to the extent that he now approves project funds contrary to statutory provi-sions and principles.” He said though the Head of Service of the Federation complied with the resolution of the National Assembly by posting a director and assistant director to the GEM project governance and implementation framework, the minister rejected the posting and continued to directly control the dayto- day operation of the GEM project as he has done since February 2018 and has intimidated the HOSF into reversing her posting of the director and assistant director.


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