- House câ€™ttee insists Udoma, Adeosun, Ogbeh must testify
James Emejo in Abuja
The Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Mustapha Maihaja, wednesday said contrary to accusations of corruption in the administration of the 6,779 metric tonnes of rice donated to the Nigerian government by the Chinese government, the first batch was cleared and warehoused in Maiduguri and Yola.
Speaking at the continuation of investigation by the House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness over an alleged breach of public trust in the relief agency, he said no time was wasted in securing and taking delivery of the goods as directed by the government.
There were allegations from lawmakers that the donated bags of rice had been missing while others said NEMA completely failed to deliver the materials to areas needed.
This came as the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) further confirmed the process of securing the delivery of the rice.
Maihaji told the lawmakers that: â€œAs soon as we secured the necessary documents, we liaised with all relevant agencies concerned with clearing but we have to invoke Section 43 (1)b of the Emergency Act because the goods had stayed for six months at the port.
â€œSecondly, it was a tough decision to take considering the situation we found ourselves in. We have to consider the condition of the people of the region, that is North-east, who are in danger of hunger and famine. We also have to consider the condition of the rice too.
â€œWe are still in the process of procuring the rest of the material, but we have taken possession of 110 containers and they are in two locations in Maiduguri and Yola. We had to follow that pattern to save the item and the people.â€
He said: â€œThere are still some in the port but all expenses are incurred by NEMA, though we have not paid for clearing but a little above N400 million have been paid on demurrage for the total consignment.
â€œWith all sincerity of purpose, the problem is about the process which involved three agencies. The process should be looked at.â€
The representative of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Samuel Iloma, a Deputy Director said being the recipient of the donation, waiver certificates were processed for the consignment that came in five batches.
According to him, â€œWe thought with the collection of the waiver, NEMA will just go and distribute but we got to understand later that the clearance is much more than that
â€œThat was why we approached a clearing firm about whatâ€™s involved to do the clearing and it was then we were told its going to involve money to get the necessary documents,â€ he said.
On her part, an Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) of Customs, Ezekezie Kaycee, who represented the CG said 3,779 metric tonnes had been cleared by customs, leaving a balance of 3,000 metric tonnes.
She also cautioned that the said number does not mean that the entire consignment had left the port.
She said: â€œEven from this number, only 1,250 has been cleared because this depends on the vessels it takes an average of 30 days to clear.
â€œFrom our records, three bills of laden have been cleared but this does not mean they have left the port. The NCS is only are only with three bills,â€ she added.
The committee however ruled that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and her Budget and National Planning counterpart, Udoma Udo Udoma, must appear before it.
Also, the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, as well as the Comptroller General (CG) of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), have also been invited by the lawmakers to explain their roles over the movement of the relief material.
The hearing which ended at about 6p.m. yesterday, is expected to continue today.