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$5.8bn NEMA fraud: Osinbajo has questions to answer, Reps insist

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$5.8bn NEMA fraud: Osinbajo has questions to answer, Reps insist

Contrary to a rebuttal from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that he did no wrongdoing in the approval of N5.8 billion for “emergency intervention of food security to the North-East” in June 2017, when he was acting president, the House of Representatives has insisted that the Number Two man “may have questions to answer, as chairman of the governing board of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).”

 

The House has also denied any interference with its activities by Speaker Yakubu Dogara or any principal officer in the parliament.

 

The vice president had, at the weekend through his spokesman, Laolu Akande, denied that he indulged in any untoward actions, but explained that the funds were released to prevent a looming disaster as a result of severe food shortages throughout the North-East. But briefing the media yesterday, chairman of the investigative committee, Hon. Ali J.C. (PDP, Gombe) submitted that being the chairman of the governing board of NEMA and approving authority at the time, Osinbajo may have questions to answer.

 

“There is nowhere in my report where I mentioned the Vice president or Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, but he may have questions to answer as the chairman of the governing board,” he explained. Ali explained further that the vice president, as acting president, approved and directed the Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation to release the sum of N5.8 billion in June 2017. He further explained that the approval for the N5.8 billion contravened the National Assembly’s power of approval “as the money was removed from the Eurobond” without the consent of the parliament.

 

“There was no procurement, there was no due process, no contract, yet the money was released and expended,” he stated. The lawmaker said his committee had documentary evidence to back up the violations, explaining further that before arriving at their recommendations, various stakeholders were invited and given ample opportunity to tell their side of the story. “We invited various state governments and the  governors or representatives of the various governors who told us that no bag of grain was delivered to their state.

 

So, we gathered our facts from the presentations from various states and stakeholders,” he said. Recall that the House had, last Thursday, endorsed the report of the committee that investigated over N33 billion fraud at NEMA and consequently advised President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sack its director general, Engr. Mustapha Yunusa Maihaji for alleged mismanagement and embezzlement.

 

Although, the abridged report of the committee, which was adopted on the floor of the chambers never mentioned the vice president, reports later emerged that Osinbajo was indicted for illegal approvals. While denying any involvement by the Office of the Speaker in the investigation, Ali said: “No single leader of the House directed the committee to carry out any action. I personally threatened to pull out if certain things were not done.

 

“I will be surprised if the speaker had any interest in what is happening in the North-East. But Hon. Benjamin Wayo from Benue State, who sponsored the motion, did so because of the series of complaints from various quarters.

 

“There was no day that neither the speaker nor any other honourable member interfered with our proceedings or compilation of our report or our recommendations,” he affirmed. Giving details on the findings of his committee, Ali explained that they recommended that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the police should be directed to recover about N800 million demurrage from some officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and NEMA.

 

He said: “That based on the investigation conducted by the committee, it has been established that the Federal Government lost a total sum of over N33 billion as a result of mismanagement and outright embezzlement of funds occasioned by the actions or inactions of the Director General of NEMA, Engr. Mustapha Yunusa Maihaji.”

 

The lawmaker noted that the committee also charged the ICPC and EFCC to recover N150 million, being subsidized cost of 5,000 metric tons of rice from Maihaji “who claimed to have donated same to World Food Programme (WFP) when they were ready to pay for it or import same.”

 

“That in view of the fact that there is evidence that the balance of 5,000 metric tons claimed to have been supplied by Olam Nig. Ltd and 3 Brothers Nig. Ltd at the cost of about N1.5 billion to NEMA was not received by the states of the North-East. The money should, therefore, be recovered from the Director General of NEMA.

 

“The committee equally asked the anti-graft agencies to further investigate the receipt and utilization of N1.6 billion for flood victims in 16 states and recover the sum of N700 million from the DG of NEMA, Engr. Maihaji.

 

“We also recommended that all government officials involved in the approval, processing, release and diversion of the sum of N5.8 billion for the emergency intervention of food security in the North-East, which contravened the provisions of section 80 (2) and 80 (4) 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,” Ali said.

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