The rotten away bags of rice
The Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Maihaja, has been under investigation for alleged violation of public trust, financial improprieties and mismanagement of relief materials from donors.
Among other allegations, the House of Representatives committee on national emergency and disaster preparedness is grilling the NEMA boss on how the agency managed 6,779 metric tons of rice donated by the Chinese Government to internally displaced persons in Nigeria.
Saharareporters gathered from sources in the agency that NEMA did not commence clearance of rice for more than six months after the rice donation had entered the shores of Nigeria.
Hence, over 5000 bags of the rice, meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northeast region, had spoilt before the agency disbursed to the various camps in the region.
During the interrogation of the NEMA boss by the committee, it was revealed that over 100 containers of rice are yet to be cleared at the ports.
Already, the rice had cost taxpayers N400 million as demurrage and additional N161 million expenditure on delivery and logistics.
The committee presided over by the Deputy Chairman, Ali Isa, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker from Gombe state, also queried NEMA for allege N3 billion rice contract awarded to Olam Nigeria Limited and Two Brothers without checking for tax clearance of the companies.
The NEMA boss, however, denied wrongdoing, saying the agency engaged the companies “under emergency as prescribed under Emergency Act”.
There has been power tussle between the house of reps’ committee and the leadership of the agency.
The committee, addressing pressmen on Tuesday, said the it would not be blackmailed into backing out of the investigation into the alleged diversion of N23 billion funds approved for National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) under Maihaja.
The spokesperson of the Committee, Johnson Agbonayinma stated that “the attention of the House of Representatives has been drawn to reports in some national dailies, on the ongoing investigation by the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Management on the need to investigate alleged violation of public trust in NEMA.
“We also want to put it on record that as at today there is no petition from any staff of NEMA to the Committee or the House of Representatives.
“The issue of the suspended directors was mentioned by the Director General Egr. Mustapha Yunusa Maihaja himself during one of the Committee’s hearing when he introduced a new director of finance and we sought to know what happened to the former director and he admitted to suspending them.
“The Committee also sought to know whether the suspension followed due process because these same directors are witnesses in the ongoing investigation. We have also observed with dismay, the ongoing campaign of calumny sponsored to pitch the House against the Presidency, especially His Excellency, the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN.
“The VP’s only involvement is because according to the law establishing NEMA, section 2 subsection 2a the Vice President is the chairman of the governing council.
“We, therefore, want to know if the council under the Vice President authorized the suspension of the directors. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which empowers the National Assembly to invite any person to appear before it, or its committee during investigations.
“The committee resolved that his Excellency, the Vice president can send anybody to represent him considering his busy schedules. This committee will leave no stone unturned until we unearth the truth.
“We will also not shield any public officer who soils their hands no matter how highly or lowly placed. We want to state unequivocally that no amount of blackmail or campaign of calumny will deter or prevent us from conducting this investigation”.
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