Written by Sarah NEGEDU

Minister justifies his employee’s appointment in World Bank project

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, has absolved himself of any form of misconduct in the handling of the World Bank sponsored, Growth and Employment, GEM, Programme.

Enelamah was reacting to a petition by a federal lawmaker, Hon. Mark Gbillah, accusing him of diverting $35million out of the fund to an illegal small and medium enterprises fund.

Gbillah, who is the deputy chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), had accused the minister of appointing a former staff of his personal company, African Capital Alliance, Mr. Ugo Ikemba, as the project coordinator in violation of laid down guidelines.

But speaking at a media chat in Abuja, Enelamah said the appointment of his former employee as the GEM project coordinator conformed to the conditions of the World Bank for administering the project.

He said there was no breach of World Bank principles in the implementation of the project, insisting that all World Bank’s rules governing the implementation of the project were adhered to.

He said, “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 that 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.”

The minister stated that the GEM Programme being implemented by the ministry is currently undergoing restructuring to cover more people, adding that the federal government had disbursed a total of $12.2million (N3.7bn) to 910 beneficiaries under the project.

The programme focused on manufacturing and service sectors, specifically supporting Information Communication Technology, entertainment, tourism and hospitality, light manufacturing (and agro-processing industries) and construction.

The $160million project became effective in July 2013 and came to an end on September 7, 2018, but Enelamah disclosed that there was ongoing discussion with the World Bank to extend the programme to cover more people.

He said the scheme was not a grant but a repayable soft loan to expand existing businesses and capacity building for small-scale business operators. Enelamah denied that the rule was skewed to favour a particular set of candidates.

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