James Emejo in Abuja
The Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, Hon. Ali Isa (APC, Gombe), Thursday invited Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to appear before it and explain the circumstances that lead to the suspension of six senior officers of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The vice president is the Chairman of the Governing Council of the relief agency which is accused by the committee of breaching due process in their suspension.
Also invited to appear before the committee in relation to the issue were the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoS), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita.
Isa, however, while ruling on the matter, said the vice president might choose to send a representation considering his tight schedule.
Speaking at the continuation of a three-day investigative hearing on an alleged breach of public trust in NEMA, the committee chairman said the process which led to the suspension of staff were questionable and needed to be substantiated by the governing board.
The affected staff had been asked to appear before the committee yesterday and were given the opportunity to be heard in public.
They alleged their suspension was a personal vendetta by the Director General of NEMA, Mr. Mustapha Maihaja, because they refused to do his bidding.
But the DG said their suspension was ordered by the board and that he only obeyed its directive after the EFCC indicted the staff and recommended to the board that they be suspended.
Maihaja said: â€œThe EFCC is carrying out an investigation on NEMA. The EFCC wrote to the chairman governing council drawing his attention to the fact that itâ€™s carrying out an investigation and had made findings and recommended those affected should be suspended.â€
He said: â€œThe governing board sat and took the decision to suspend the staff and conveyed their resolution requesting their suspension.
â€œI was taking instruction from the council. Iâ€™m the secretary of the council and sign extracts from the council. So based on that, I signed as the secretary.â€
He said:â€The report of the EFCC that led to the decision to suspend the officers was not released to the members though they were allowed to scrutinise it.
â€œAt the meeting, members were not allowed to take the letter out but allowed to go through it because the EFCC investigation is still ongoing.
On the N5 billion North-east intervention fund, the DG said only N829 million was received for logistics and security.
He, however confirmed that food items worth the said amount was received while N829 million was used for the movement of the materials to the region.
According to him:â€I received items not money worth N5,036 billion and we were instructed to pick them from the stores. Some companies have not however delivered theirs like Golden Agric Pnput Limited.
â€œFood items were reviewed from Dangote, Boa Flour Mills and others.
â€œWe have distributed and still distributing. 50 percent was moved to Maiduguri, 20 percent to Yobe and 10 to Bauchi Gombe and Taraba.
â€œOur officers were deployed to do mass distribution
â€œThe instruction to pick the materials emanated from the office of the Acting President.
â€œThe background to the project was that on 21 April, the SGF wrote a memo following scaling down of support from international agencies and by implication, 145 million people will be affected.
â€œIf by June nothing was done, famine and hunger remain highly probable. Government responded and NEMA was asked to move in and distributeâ€.
The DG was also questioned on the eligibility of some companies engaged for the supply of 10,000 metric tonnes of rice worth N3 billion.
He said:â€â€We engaged the companies under emergency as proscribed under Emergency Act.
â€œWe approached the BPP with the available documents required and BPP said that deficiencies should be updated for further review for the issuance of Certificate of no objection immediately after emergency.
â€œIt was recognised in a letter that the situation and circumstances warranted that the agency should continue with the documentation after the emergency period.
â€œDelay in procurement is crucial here. Under emergency situation the engagement of the said companies was in order, according to BPP.
â€œThe law does not emphasise bidding for contract during emergency,â€ he added.