James Emejo in Abuja
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, yesterday refuted allegation that he had mismanaged the $35 million World Bank Growth and Employment (GEM) project designed to boost job creation in the country.
The House of Representatives had urged the World Bank and federal government to stop further funding for the project while investigation is carried out to determine the allegations.
Furthermore, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Hon. Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue), had also petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the matter, alleging that the minister siphoned soft loans meant for the project into illegal Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) fund among other accusations.
However, in his first official reaction to the controversy, Enelamah said the programme was administered according to best practice and conformed with conditions of the World Bank for operating GEM.
Speaking at a press briefing, he distanced himself from any wrongdoing in the handling of the project.
He said rules were never bent to the advantage of anybody contrary to accusations.
The minister also disclosed that the project is currently being fine-tuned by the World Bank to accommodate more Nigerians.
According to him, “The project was initially being managed as part of the civil service; somebody from the civil service was heading it but the World Bank was not happy. It recommended that the offer should be thrown open to good and qualified candidates.
“The guy who came first wanted to be paid in foreign currency, a request World Bank turned down. But the man that came second had a lower set of conditions and he got sound experience, and we worked together at Capital Alliance.
“Everything was done transparently and the records are there.”
Enelamah, further hinted on the ongoing discussion with the Bretton Woods institution to extend the programme to cover more people, explaining that the scheme was not a grant but a repayable soft loans to expand existing business and capacity building.
The minister, who was also part of the Nigerian delegation led by President Muhammadu Buhari to the recent trip to China, disclosed that the $2 billion support fund secured for the expansion of Cotton Textile and Garment (CTG) will be applied across textile value chain.
A $500 million facility was also secured to revive the automotive industry.