By Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA—THE House of Representatives yesterday mandated its Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness to probe the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, over looted N19.4 billion relief materials funds for victims of disasters.
This is just as the House Committee on Works ordered the acting Rector of Federal School of Survey, Oyo, Surveyor Joshua Olushola Omilabu, to give adequate account of how N87.5 million spent on the construction of an administrative building in 2017.
The NEMA issue was based on a motion promoted by Benjamin Wayo, under matter of urgent public importance on the floor of the House.
The funds, according to the lawmakers, were for hunger intervention in the North East and food intervention across the country.
The lawmakers noted that the funds were illegally siphoned by officials of the agency through dubious award of contracts without delivering relief items to the victims.
Explaining the breakdown of the funds, while leading the debate on the motion, Wayo said the agency has received more than N10 billion from the 20 percent National Ecological Fund in the last one year.
Other funds on the radar of the lawmakers are the N5 billion for hunger intervention in the North East, about N2 billion for food intervention across the country and the N2.4 billion the Director General of the agency, Mustapha Maihaja, allegedly awarded to the companies he has interest in.
Wayo noted that the agency was the only federal agency that had an Air Ambulance, adding that the Ambulance had been turned into a commercial one without the financial proceeds remitted to government coffers.
The lawmaker explained that the mandate of NEMA was to coordinate the management of disasters across the country and to assist victims of such disasters, but added that in spite of the core mandate, several cases of disasters across the country had not been given necessary attention.
“The hunger issue in IDP camps in the Northeast; the farmers/herdsmen conflicts; fire disasters victims and many other such cases across the country have been neglected.
“The agency has received more than N10 billion from the 20 per cent National Ecological Fund in the last one year, N5 billion for hunger intervention in the Northeast, about N2 billion for food intervention across the country,” the lawmaker said.
“These funds were illegally siphoned by officials of the agency through dubious award of contracts without delivering relief items to the victims. The Director General of the agency also awards contracts to companies he has personal interests in, and has violated his approval limits by awarding contracts to a single firm without due process.
“Example, one company called Olam Nigeria Limited got a contract of N2.4 billion, which is against the agency’s approval limit as stated in Section 16 subsection 1 of the NEMA Act. It should be made clear that the section pegs the approval limit at just N30 million,” the lawmaker said.
He, however, said that the incapability of the NEMA DG to manage the affairs of the agency, prompted the staff to go on strike last year, adding that the staff are currently threatening to embark on another strike if there is no intervention to resolve lingering labour related issues in the agency.
Also yesterday, members of the Works Committee ordered the Acting Rector of Federal School of Survey, FSS, Oyo, Surveyour Joshua Omilabu, to furnish it how N87.5m was expended without a proper appropriation structure.
Chairman of the Committee, Toby Okechukwu, PDP, Aninri/Oji River Federal Constituency, Enugu, had demanded for a run down of the 2017 budget performance.
This task which the Rector could not perform two weeks ago, became herculean as he had to consult other principal officers on how to go about defending his 2017 budget.
At this point, Okechukwu demanded for a breakdown of what was spent on same administrative building from 2015 through 2017.
He gave the breakdown as follows: 2015-N29m, 2016-N25m and 2017-N31m totalling N86,173,799.53 for the said period.
The chairman immediately demanded for the extra N10m not accounted for.
But before he could go ahead for a further breakdown, Rep Israel Ajibola Famurewa,APC, Osun asked him whether the amounts he quoted were actually appropriated.
Responding, the Rector said”in our last presentation it was stated.
His response did not go down well with the committee chairman who quickly reminded him that this was his second chance to defend the 2017 budget performance.
“We went through this ritual the last time you came and we gave you ample time to tidy up your papers.
After the chairman’s reaction, Omilabu for more than five minutes had to consult his fellow principal officers on what to do next.
Famurewa an Engineer and a member of the committee at this point moved a motion that the FSS matter should be stepped down for another day.
The chairman ruled and ordered Omilabu to get all remittances and payment vouchers used for the contract and how they spent an extra N10m that was not appropriated for in the said contract.