The acting Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, Azuka Azinge, has allegedly colluded with a former minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, to short-change the commission over N559 million.
Investigations by the DAILY NIGERIAN revealed that in 2018, Messrs Azinge and Enelamah had connived to illegally grant waivers to two private companies, one of which was Polaris Bank Limited, when it sought to increase its share capital base from one million to 25 billion.
DAILY NIGERIAN reports that waivers are economic policies done by government to encourage or promote the production of a particular commodity that has direct bearing on the country’s economy.
However, experts say waivers could be granted for corrupt or political reasons.
Financial analysts said the filing charges the CAC was supposed to collect from the bank amounts to N186million but was waived by the agency.
Copies of leaked email correspondence between the acting Registrar-General and Mr Enelamah, sighted by this reporter, revealed that the duo had met privately on the matter and perfected plans on how to share the proceeds of the alleged illegality.
Mrs Azinge’s initiating email to the minister, dated September 23, 2018, read: Good Evening Honourable Minister. Hope this message finds you well.
“Further to our discussion yesterday on granting waiver for increase in share capital to Polaris Bank, may I suggest that you kindly send your approval by email to enable staff handling the transaction sight the authorization for the waiver.
“This will ensure smooth handling of the increase without audit query and delay. I will ensure speedy delivery accordingly,” the letter ends.
The following day, on September 24, 2019, the minister wrote back to the Mrs Azinge, granting his approval for the said waiver.
In the email response, the minister said: “Please accept this as my approval of the waiver as requested. Thank you, Best regards, Okey Enelamah.”
DAILY NIGERIAN reports that a few days after granting the waiver, many staff members at the headquarters of the commission raised concerns over the development, especially as the commission was battling with dwindling revenue.
One of the staff members who pleaded anonymity said: “We have problems like the non-remittance of pension funds for a long time now. No staff training and other welfare packages.”
Another document sighted by DAILY NIGERIAN revealed that another waiver was granted to Enyimba Economic City Development Company Limited, a Public-Private-Partnership between Abia State Government and Crown Realities Limited, a private developer.
In October, 2018, the company wrote to the CAC, expressing its intention to increase its share capital from 100million to 50billion and the commission demanded the sum of N373.24million as filing fees.
Faced with this reality, the company sought the intervention of Mr Enelamah, who also hails from Abia State.
In convincing their kinsman, the company argued that the PPP project, if completed, would provide over 625,000 direct jobs for Nigerian youths.
The minister, thereafter, conveyed his approval for the granting of waiver for the company.
However, a source at the Office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, OSGF, said waivers of that nature needed presidential approval.
He said: “Waivers running into hundreds of millions need presidential approval. The minister actually acted in error, except if he did what he did for financial gains.”
However, a director at the industry, trade and investment ministry who did not want his name on print told DAILY NIGERIAN that in the case of Enyimba Economic City, President Muhammadu Buhari was briefed about the project and he welcomed the initiative.
“Also, the Federal Government, through the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company, which promotes Made In Nigeria for Export, MINE, was contacted and a partnership deal was signed.
“The Federal Government and Abia State Government signed Definitive Agreements for the project between the Enyimba City Economic Zone Limited.
“The signing took place sometime in the second week of December, 2018 at the Presidential Villa and the Federal Government was represented by Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company,” the source said.
The source, however, disclosed that the President was bypassed in granting the waiver, saying: “the issue of waiver was not discussed with the President at all.
“It was the minister that used his prerogative to approve the waiver. However, by law, the President must be notified and his consent sought before such decision was to be made.”
“Ideally, special waivers are anchored through the presidency, directing related ministries to implement the same.
“In this case, I never heard of any directive for waivers to private companies trying to expand their businesses.
“For example, why would the Nigerian government grant waiver to a bank when if any Nigerian approaches such bank for a loan must be charged interest? I mean, this is a simple question that can expose this illegality.”
While the former minister is yet to return DAILY NIGERIAN email inquiry requesting his response, Mrs Azinge, through her spokesman, Moses Adaguusu, shifted the blame to the former minister.
She said: “The position is that the two companies duly applied and were duly granted waivers on filing fees by the Hon. Minister who by law had the power to do that.”
Both Polaris Bank Limited and Enyimba Economic City Development Company Limited did not reply to our reporter’s inquiry.