The House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness has indicted Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in its report, accusing him of illegally approving
N5.8 billion for the North East Intervention Fund and the lawmakers said was mismanaged by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Presenting the committee’s report for consideration during plenary on Thursday, 8 November, the chairman of the committee, Ali Isa (PDP, Gombe) said Prof. Osinbajo, then acting president, illegally approved the release of
N5.8 billion in June 2017 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account to NEMA without legislative appropriation and therefore in contravention of Section 80(4) of the Nigerian Constitution.
The section states that, “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly”.
The lawmakers also stated that the authorisation did not follow due process as taxes and interest accruable to the government were not deducted or remitted to FIRS and no meeting of the Federal Executive Council approved the contracts.
The committee said the funds were credited directly to the individual banks of the companies and NEMA’s bank account, in violation of the approval limit allowed by law.
The committee said out of the
N5.8 billion, NEMA got N829 million for logistics and claimed it spent N369.5 million on general logistics; N189 million on branding and packaging; N248.6 million on branding and packaging and N21.9 million on contingency.
The House in plenary adopted the report which contained a resolution for the dismissal and prosecution of the director-general of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, for fraud, corruption and embezzlement of
N33 billion Emergency Intervention Fund, as well as all the government officials involved in the approval, processing, release and diversion of the fund.
It also said the Central Bank of Nigeria, being banker to the federal government, should not have been involved in giving loans to private companies and as such, should be investigated for the
N2 billion loan said to have been given to four named companies.
The committee’s investigation of NEMA covered the release of
N5.8 billion and N3.1 billion emergency food intervention of food security in the North East in 2017; the 6,779 metric tonnes of rice donated by the Chinese government to IDPs in the North East and the payment of about N800 million demurrage on the donated rice.
The committee stated that
N33 billion was lost by the federal government due to Mr Maihaja’s mismanagement and outright embezzlement of funds.
But the office of the vice president is pushing back at the allegations. Osinbajo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande released a rebuttal that the House’s “conclusion is both false and misleading”.
It explained that the vice president was approved the money in response to an growing emergency food shortages throughout the North East, as a result of successive poor harvests and abandoned farmlands and the United Nations World Food Programme warning that it would be reducing its support to about 1.8 million IDPs by as much as 85 per cent during the period.
“The Federal Government moved urgently to prevent the looming disaster by establishing a strategic food intervention plan for the affected states” the statement read, insisting “On account of the emergency nature of the procurement, the House Committee’s assumption that the ordinary rules of procurement would apply was wrong.
“Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act makes provision for emergency procurement, in which case the procuring entity is allowed to engage in direct contracting for goods and file a report thereafter with the Bureau of Public Procurement.
These presidential approvals, he explained, were within the constitutional authority of the Acting President, who needed to take emergency steps to forestall acute food shortages in the affected states.
He insisted that there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional about them.
“It is also wrong to assume that taxes and interests accruable to government from these transactions in food items were deliberately ignored or waived by neglect. Of course, we expect that any loans advanced to any of the companies would be recovered with the agreed interests, and that any profits made by such companies would be liable to tax in the usual manner.
Nonetheless, the vice president’s office was silent on the provision of Section 80(4) of the Nigerian Constitution which requires appropriation before any money can be expended from public funds of the country which is superior to the Public Procurement Act.
The House report further argued that the none of the States received any grains said to have been purchased with the monies dispensed and that even if the government acted out of an emergency, it had the constitutional duty to return to the legislature for approval.