Probe panel uncovers rots in federal agencies as Boko Haram crisis exposes NEMA

By Akanimo Sampson

ONGOING probe of some federal agencies by a panel of the House of Representatives is unearthing some cans of worms that tend to damage the public image of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Already, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is in a big mess as some of the states in Northern Nigeria overwhelmed by their humanitarian crisis triggered by the Boko Haram insurgency are firing at the agency for allegedly failing to carry them along in the handling of the worrisome displacement crisis.

NEMA was established via Act 12 as amended by Act 50 of 1999, to manage disasters in Nigeria. It has been tackling disaster related issues through the establishment of concrete structures.

The agency is saddled with the responsibility of coordinating resource towards efficient and effective disaster prevention, preparation, mitigation and response in Nigeria and to build a culture of preparedness, prevention, response and community resilience to disaster in Nigeria.

The Act vests the authority of managing disasters in Nigeria on NEMA. According to the enabling law; the agency shall among the other things, formulate policy on all activities relating to the disaster management in Nigeria and co-ordinate the plans and programmes for efficient and effect response to disasters at national level;
and monitor the state of preparedness of all.

Governments of Gombe, Yobe, Bauchi and Taraba states have made testimonies before a panel of the House of Representatives  where they alleged that NEMA did not involve them or their state emergency agencies when they commenced the distribution of trlief items for victims of disasters.

They also claiming that they could not ascertain whether the items were distributed by NEMA according to the claim of the agency’s Director General because of their non-involvement in the whole arrangement.

Except Bauchi, all the state said they did not receive any letter from NEMA about the food distribution to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)in their states. Gombe State Government was however, emphatic that there are no IDP camps in the state, and as such, it did not receive any relief materials from the agency.

NEMA’s Director General Mustapha Maihaja, an engineer, has admitted before the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness investigating the alleged breach of public trust in the agency that the agency did not comply with the provisions of the Act which mandates it to liaise with its state counterparts during distribution of relief materials.

Speaking at the resumed sitting of the committee in the National Assembly, the DG made the admittance while responding to questions by lawmakers on the failure of the agency to distribute relief materials to the affected areas in the North East.

The hearing of the day was focused on the distribution of relief materials or lack of it, and the N8 billion Emergency Food Intervention Programme in the five states in the North East region:  Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa and Bauchi States.

It also took testimonies from the officials of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM),  National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)and the Corporate Affairs Commision(CAC) on the status of the companies that were awarded the contracts for the implementation of the emergency food intervention programme.

The committee also unraveled a forged clearance certificate presented by Three Brothers Rice Mill Ltd. The representative of ITF at the hearing had informed the lawmakers that the clearance purportedly issued by ITF was not from his office as it bears a wrong address, signature and carries his name, though he was not the one who signed it.

Officials of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM),  National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)and the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC), while making presentations on the companies (Three Brothers Rice Mill Nigeria Ltd and Olam Nigeria Ltd) engaged by NEMA to carry out the N8 billion Food Intervention Programme, informed the committee that they did not fully meet all the requirements for qualification for government contracts.

Responding, NEMA DG Mustapha said the exigency of the situation required the agency to make emergency procurements. He also faulted Yobe State statement that NEMA did not make any contact with the state on the distribution and presented a letter of communicated to the committee where the state acknowledged correspondence from them.

The contract awarded to Olam Nigeria Ltd for 2.4 billion naira and the 600million to 3 Brothers Rice Ltd for supply of rice for the emergency food intervention programme in the North East, he stated, was made at the presidential level and the contractors were selected because they had the capacity to deliver in the huge quantity that was needed.

Earlier, Chairman of the committee, Hon. Ali Isa  J.C, warned against misrepresentation of the proceedings of the committee. He said some news reports were deliberately trying to mislead the public and create an impression that the National Assembly is at war with the vice president.

He said, “the House believes we are working with the executive, especially when it comes to fighting corruption and getting value for money. “

The chairman also declared that the House cannot be intimidated into suspending the investigation. He said they will not be distracted to shift focus from probing the N5.9 billion and N3.1 billion Emergency Food Intervention Programme, the N1.6 billion funds for 16 states flood relief and another N1.6 billion for Libya returnees.

The committee summoned the Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Agriculture and all companies involved in the procurement of the N5.1 emergency food in the North East.

It also directed NEMA DG to bring all communication, including minutes of meetings, related to the selection of the companies that got the contracts.