James Emejo in Abuja
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Thursday clarified that the 2016 food grain mop up scheme executed by the federal government was undertaken to save the country from a looming danger occasioned by threats arising from export of the countryâ€™s food by foreign companies.
He further explained that government has had to take calculated to prevent an imminent food security threat due to rising inflation, price increase of commodities and falling value of naira, the need to encourage local farmers and spare the country of the consequences of the activities of the foreign companies.
Speaking at the concluding part of the public hearing on the investigation of alleged breach of public trust in the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Emefiele, who was represented by CBN Director, Banking and Finance, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, explained that as a result, four companies were engaged in the mop up programme.
He added that the exercise was a special intervention scheme implemented to save the situation in 2016 adding that all participating companies were fully paid for the loan they sourced from banks to execute the project.
The committee had been investigating various allegations against the relief agency ranging from unlawful suspension of staff, breach of public procurement laws, diversion of relief materials to questionable award of contracts for delivery of aid to disaster affected communities particularly in the Northeast which has been devastated by insurgency.
However, NEMA boss, Mustapha Maihaja has all along refused to give in to all allegations and considers the probe as more of a witch-hunt by politicians.
Nonetheless, Fatokun also disputed suggestions that the fund was credited to an infrastructure Euro bond, stressing that the loan was raised by the Debt Management Office (DMO) as a debt for the CBN from the N200 billion Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme.
He said: â€œThese companies were selected because they were big ticket off takers and known by grain farmers, thatâ€™s why they were invited to participate in the special programme of grain mop up.
â€œAs to the status of the loan, the loan was given to the four banks in December 2016 and fully paid up between October and November 2017.
â€œOn source of funding, as stated by us at our first appearance at this public hearing, we are bankers to the government, we maintain government accounts and we act on mandates received from government just as commercial banks act on mandates received from their customers.
â€œThe Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) will be in a better position to throw light on that.â€
However, the committee Chairman, Hon. Isa Ali, adjourned indefinitely the public hearing which had witnessed over 10 sittings, noting that it has a timeline as mandated by the House to conclude its findings and lay the report.