During a chat with Journalists in Abuja, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, said the Growth and Employment Programme being implemented by the ministry and sponsored by the World Bank, is being restructured. It is reported that the Federal Government has disbursed a total of $12.2 million to about 910 beneficiaries of the project.
The $160 million dollar project which started in July 2013, came to an end on September 7, 2018. The GEM project focused on manufacturing and service sectors, supporting information communication technology, entertainment, tourism and hospitality, light manufacturing and construction.
Mark Gbillah, Deputy Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on petroleum resources, filed a petition accusing the minster of diverting $35 million of the fund to an illegal small and medium enterprise fund. The lawmaker claimed that three months into the GEM project, Enelamah hired a former staff of his personal company as the project coordinator, a move which was a violation of the guidelines stipulated by the World Bank.
Responding to the accusations, Enelamah stated that the employment of his former employee as the GEM project coordinator, conformed to the conditions of the World Bank for administering the project.
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”.
Enelamah added that “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 said there is an ongoing discussion with the World Bank to extend the programme to cover more people. He however noted that the scheme was not a grant, but a payable soft loan to expand existing business and provide capacity building for small scale business operators.