The Vice President has some explanations to make in the management of NEMA, as it concerns authorisation of N5.8 billion as emergency intervention fund
The House of Representatives is headed for a collision course with the Presidency. The bone of contention is the report of the House Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency, which indicted top government functionaries in the alleged mismanagement of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
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The House had on Thursday last week adopted the report of the Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency, which investigated alleged breach of public trust in the management of NEMA.
The report made some unsavoury findings about the state of affairs in the disaster management agency and came up with a damning verdict against top government functionaries, including the NEMA Managing Director Mustapha Yunusa Maihaja.
While it outrightly indicted Maihaja, demanding his immediate sack and prosecution, the House resolved “that all government officials involved in the approval, processing, release and diversion of the sum of N5.8bn for emergency intervention of food security in the Northeast, which contravened the provisions of S.80(2) of the constitution, infraction of due process for procurement and loss of government revenue, flouting of the terms of the Eurobond loan are hereby indicted and the relevant security agencies should take steps to recover the money from them.”
In the eye of the storm is the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. Though the House Committee headed by Hon Ali J.C Isa, did not mention him in its report, the chairman stated expressly that the Vice President has some explanations to make in the management of NEMA, especially as it concerns the authorisation of the release of N5.8 billion as emergency intervention fund, without recourse to the National Assembly.
Expectedly , the Presidency is not taking the position of the House on NEMA, especially as it concerns Osinbajo, lightly. The spokesman to the Vice President, Laolu Akande, in his immediate reaction had dismissed the conclusion arrived at by the House “as both false and misleading.”
On Tuesday, exactly five days after the resolutions were adopted, the matter was raised again on the floor of the House. Speaking on Point of Privilege, the chairman, House Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency, expressed concern over the diverse reactions that have trailed the report on NEMA.
He insisted that the Committee’s recommendation were based on documentary evidences at its disposal. However, the committee chairman offered to publicly apologize to Nigerians, in the event that any one comes up with facts to prove that his Committee acted wrongly.
Isa later told National Assembly correspondents that Osinbajo “ has questions to answer. Even the committee sent him an invitation. But he directed the DG to represent him.”
According to him, “the Vice President acted as acting President. We are talking about the N5.8 billion and N3.1 billion. On the this issue of releases, the approval was given by the VP, when he was acting President and the money was removed from the Eurobond. But in our submissions, there was no where I or the Committee, mentioned specifically the VP or Professor Osinbajo.
“What I also know is that he is the chairman of the Governing Council of NEMA. So, if he knows that that there is something that I didn’t know, his office may be able to respond to some of the issues.
“I have documents from CBN stating that this release (N5.8 billion) should be paid directly to the said companies, with signing any agreement with the companies, without giving them any award letters; without any procurement processes money was paid into their account.
“When the committee tried to find out what happened to the procurement, everybody tried to transfer blame. When we asked the Accountant General, he directed us to NEMA. When we asked NEMA, they directed us to find out from the Governing Council. That they only got N800 million. The N5 billion was paid directly to the companies.
The lawmaker added “N5.8 billion was released for emergency food intervention in the North East. The Committee was able to confirm that the amount was removed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. And from the Eurobond approved by the National Assembly. So, removing the money from the Eurobond, we feel was not right. “
There is no doubt that the dust raised by the House resolutions on NEMA will take a long time to settle. This is understandable. From the commencement of the NEMA probe, and all through the investigation, there have been mutual suspicion between the executive and the legislature on the issue.
In recent times, the House has had countless investigative hearings, but suffice to say that non seems to have generated the kind of interest that the NEMA probe generated, so much so that at a point the committee ensured that its sittings were aired live. There were even insinuations that there maybe more to the probe than meets the eyes.
Regardless, whatever might be the motive for the House investigation, there is need for the Executive arm of government to critically interrogate all the issues raised by the House report, to ascertain for itself if due process had been followed in the operation of NEMA. If there were indeed infractions as stated by the House, the government should mete out the necessary punishment to those found culpable.
However, if on the other hand, there is documentary evidence to show that due processes were followed in the management of the disaster management agency, such documents must be placed at the disposal of the public.
Good enough, the House has promised to rescind its resolution, if there are documentary evidence to show that the NEMA board and management acted in accordance with relevant laws.
However, since the chairman, Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency has said that Osinbajo has questions to answer in respect to the approval for the expenditure of N5.8 billion without the approval of parliament, what is likely going to be the next line of action for the House? Will the Green Chamber invite the Vice President to answer those questions or it just let sleeping dogs lie? Only time will tell.