House of Representatives

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, on Thursday, summoned Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, over the suspension of six directors of the National Emergency Management Agency.

The committee also summoned the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

Osinbajo is the Chairman of the Governing Council of NEMA.

The directors were suspended last week when the House began investigation into the expenditure of N17.8bn by NEMA under the watch of its Director General, Mr. Mustapha Maihaja.

The suspended directors are the Director of Finance and Accounts, Akinbola Gbolahan; Ag. Director, Special Duties, Mr. Umesi Emenike; and Director, Risk Reduction, Mallam Alhassan Nuhu.

Others are the pilot in charge of Air Ambulance and Aviation Unit, Mr. Mamman Ibrahim; the Chief Maintenance Officer, Mr. Ganiyu Deji; and the Director of Welfare, Mr. Kanar Mohammed.

NEMA has been under the searchlight of anti-graft agencies, particularly the EFCC, over alleged corrupt acts perpetrated by NEMA’s top officials.

The board was said to have yielded to the request of the EFCC to suspend the directors so that the commission could have unfettered access to information within the agency.

However, when they appeared before the House committee on Thursday to testify in the ongoing probe of the N17.8bn expenditure, the directors accused the governing board and Maihaja of suspending them in “breach of due process.”

They claimed that the real reason they were suspended was because they opposed some of the policies introduced by Maihaja on assumption of office at NEMA in April 2017.

The directors also claimed that they were not given fair hearing, neither did the suspension follow civil service rules.

In addition, they observed that the suspension appeared to be selective, since the DG, who sat atop NEMA, was left out.

The committee, which is led by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Gombe State, Mr. Ali Isa, is specifically investigating ‘Violations of Public Trust at NEMA’.

The committee resolved to summon the VP after Maihaja informed the lawmakers that the council took a decision to suspend the directors at its meeting on the orders of Osinbajo.

It said in order to ensure transparency in the investigations, it would be fair to hear from the VP.

The committee also called for the EFCC’s interim report on the probe of NEMA, a reason it ordered the appearance of Magu as well.

NEMA had received the N17.8bn from several sources to intervene in many emergencies in the country, including the N5bn meant for the purchase of food items for the Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East and the N1.6bn for interventions in 16 states hit by floods in 2017.

However, the House received many petitions alleging misapplication of the funds and the award of contracts to firms in violation of the Public Procurement Act.

Earlier on Wednesday, Maihaja had denied that the agency flouted due process in the disbursement of the N1.6bn to the affected states.

Each of the states was to receive intervention worth N100m, but the petitions before the committee alleged that less than N50m was received by the states.

On Thursday, Maihaja addressed the issue of the N5bn earmarked for intervention in the North-East.

He denied that NEMA received the N5bn in cash, but food items worth N5bn.

Maihaja admitted that only N829m was received directly by the agency for “logistics and security.”

The DG added, “I received items, not money, worth N5bn. We were instructed to pick them from the stores. Some companies have not however delivered theirs, like Golden Agric Input Ltd.

“Food items were received from Dangote, BUA, Flour Mills and others. We have distributed and still distributing. Fifty per cent was moved to Maiduguri; 20 per cent to Yobe and 10 per cent to Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba states.

“Our officers were deployed to do mass distribution. The instruction to pick the materials emanated from the office of the (then) Acting President.”

The committee later adjourned sitting till next week to receive Osinbajo, Oyo-Ita and Magu.

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