…accuse Osinbajo of illegal approval
The House of Representatives has indicted the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mr Mustapha Maihaja, over alleged embezzlement of funds in excess of N33bn under his watch.
The House on Thursday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Maihaja, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission were directed to prosecute the DG and recover the funds listed against him.
Six senior members of staff, who were placed on suspension earlier in the year as the House began investigation into NEMA’s operations, were also asked to be reinstated immediately.
They are Akinbola Hakeem (Director, Finance and Accounts); Alhassan Nuhu (Director, Disaster and Risk Reduction); Emenike Umesi (Acting Director, Special Duties); Mohammed Kanar (Deputy Director, Welfare); Mamman Ibrahim (Captain of the Air Ambulance); and Yunusa Deji-Ganiyu (Assistant Chief Administrative Officer).
“All the NEMA board members who were involved in their suspension should be sanctioned,” the House stated.
An ad hoc committee of the House chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Gombe State, Mr Ali Isa, had probed alleged abuses by Maihaja and recommended his sacking.
The House in plenary on Thursday endorsed the report of the panel.
Among the major infractions was that government officials diverted the sum of N5.8bn earmarked for “emergency intervention and food security in the North-East” in 2017, and another N17bn released from the Ecological Fund to NEMA.
On the N5.8bn, the panel’s report noted that a memo by the Office of the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo authorised its release in June 2017 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation without prior approval by the National Assembly.
The report observed that this was a violation of Section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution.
The money was paid to five companies and NEMA to supply food items to the IDPs in the North-East.
The companies were Dangote Rice Limited (N936.1m); Golden Agric Input Limited (N1.3bn); BUA Rice Limited (N1.3bn); WACOT Limited (N453.6m); WACOT Limited (N939.9m); and NEMA (N829m).
Osinbajo is the Chairman of the board of NEMA.
The report reads partly, “On the emergency intervention in food security in the North-East to support the population ravaged by insurgency, a sum of N5,865,671,939.26 was approved and released in June 2017 vide a memo raised from the Office of the Acting President, directing the Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation to so act.
“The details further specified a directive to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from the Ministry of Finance to pay the sum from the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account which the AGF is to raise a mandate for.
“This is in contravention of the approval of the National Assembly on the issuance of Euro, Bond from which the Minister authorised payment. The Euro Bond is for specified infrastructural projects and not for discretionary intervention. Furthermore, there is no specific appropriation by the National Assembly.
“This contravenes Section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states, ‘No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”’
Other government officials involved in the release of the money were the former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, and the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris.
As for the DG, the House listed specific funds against Maihaja that he was directed to refund.
For instance, out of the N1.6bn voted for flood victims in 16 states, the DG was asked to refund N700m.
The House report stated, “The House condemns in its entirety the display of insensitivity to the plight of flood victims showed by NEMA management in the handling of the relief materials.
“That the ICPC and EFCC should further investigate the matter and recover the sum of N700m from the DG, who is the accounting officer of the agency.”
He is also to return another N1.1bn, “being subsidy cost of 5,000 metric tons of rice from the DG, who claimed to have donated same to the World Food Programme when they were ready to pay for it or import same.”
The report added, “In view of the fact that there is no evidence that the balance of 5,000 metric tons of rice claimed to have been supplied by Olam Nigeria Limited and 3 Brothers Nigeria Limited at the cost of about N1.5bn to NEMA was received by North-East states, the money should be recovered from the NEMA DG.”
On the 6,779 metric tons of rice donated by the Chinese Government in support of Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East, the House asked the ICPC, the EFCC and the police to “ensure recovery of the payment of about N800m demurrage from the concerned officers of the Ministry of Budget/National Planning, Ministry of Agriculture and NEMA.”
Meanwhile, NEMA in a statement on Thursday rejected the report, saying some of the conclusions did not reflect the facts and documents placed before the House by the agency.
The statement read in part, “The House of Representatives, at its sitting of November 8, 2018, received the report of the House Committee on Emergency and Preparedness Response on the alleged violation of public trust against NEMA.
“We were shocked to hear some of the findings and conclusions presented by the Committee on the issues, which did not reflect the facts and documents placed before it by NEMA.”
Text excerpted from PUNCH