The Senate has directed the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah, and the acting Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Terhemba Nongo, to return N14.3 billion to the federal government, the Punch newspaper has reported.

The demand was contained in a letter written by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Mohammed Sabo (APC, Jigawa South-West).

The Senate said the money was diverted from the 2017 budget of NEPZA.

In the letter, Mr Sabo asked the minister and the NEPZA boss to either refund the money immediately or be prepared to face dire consequences.

The lawmaker told journalists that the money was transferred from NEPZA’s account into the account of a private company, the Nigerian Special Economic Zone Company.

He said the money was “hurriedly” transferred between April 8 and 10, ignoring an earlier warning not to do so.

He also said the money was first lodged in NEPZA’s account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2017 budget allocations and thereafter, moved into the private firm’s account.

“To prevent this fraud, my committee wrote a letter to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on April 8, asking him not to release the money.

“But we have confirmed that the money has been released and transfered by NEPZA, in collaboration with the minister, into a private company’s account.

“This is unacceptable to us. Hence, we have directed that money be returned,” Punch quoted him saying.