Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Maihaja, has opened up to the House of Representatives on how development partners withdrew 85 per cent support for the North East.
Maihaja disclosed this to the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, at a public hearing convened by the panel, over alleged violation of public trust in NEMA, in Abuja, yesterday.
The NEMA DG also told the panel how N3.1 billion rice was procured for distribution in the North East, though the agency cannot award any procurement contract worth more than N300 million.
Maihaja insisted before lawmakers that NEMA did not circumvent or violate due process in the award of contracts for the country’s emergency needs.
He explained how the agency was forced to approach the Presidency for the procurement of emergency materials for the North East “because development partners withdrew 85 percent of their funding support for the region” and that NEMA was allocated N10.322 billion from the Ecological Funds, in the period under review.
The committee also asked why an officer, other than a procurement officer, signed contracts award letters.
Besides, the committee queried NEMA’s power to approve a contract exceeding N300 million, in line with the act establishing it.
However, in his response, Maihaja explained that following the withdrawal of development partners, the agency wrote to the Presidency to obtain permission to award contracts exceeding its approval limit.
“We insisted that due process be followed on procurement since my assumption of duties in April 2017 because different methods were used before then, with serious resistance from within and outside.
“Today, NEMA is one of the most investigated agencies, but due process was followed in our procurements. On the 10,000 metric tonnes of rice, we complied with the Procurement Act. The agency sought presidential approval for the procurement of 10,000 metric tonnes of rice at N3.1 billion for emergency purposes in the North East.
“The approval was signed by the Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo), in a letter by the deputy Chief of Staff. The contract was awarded to two companies as well as logistics companies for delivery.”
Asked why a director in charge of relief and rehabilitation had to sign contract award letters rather than a procurement officer, Maihaja replied that the agency had no procurement officer at that time.
“My action was taken with utmost sincerity; there was no intention to sidetrack anyone in this responsibility. We have a store system and other units to take charge of materials. The director, relief and rehabilitation, is not in charge of stores.”
Earlier, when he declared the public hearing, Speaker Yakubu Dogara decried poor response to disasters in the country.