Chris Steven, Abuja
Indications have emerged that there are more than meets the eyes in the ordeal of the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, at the House of Representatives.
The Reps’ Committee on Emergency and Disaster Management is investigating alleged diversion of funds approved for NEMA under Maihaja whilst abandoning credible evidence of corruption uncovered by the EFCC.
The committee is investigating how the Maihaja managed monies made available to NEMA within one year. The funds include: N5.9 billion food intervention for North East; N3.1 billion food intervention for North East; N1.6 billion for Libya returnees; 1.6 billion for flood intervention for 16 states; 6,779 metric tonnes of rice by Chinese government; N800 million demurrage on donated rice by Chinese government and unaccounted N10 billion release from Ecological funds.
The embattled DG had appeared before the committee last week, telling members of the committee that the controversial N1.5 billion suspicious contracts were awarded in the agency by the former Director-General, before his assumption of duty. It was gathered that the N1.1billion contract was awarded between January 1 – March 31, 2017 whereas Maihaja came on board on April 21, 2017.
A source said, “the mandate of the Reps committee covers the fraudulent contract but they are avoiding it because they have scores and a political agenda to deliver to Geidam”.
Appearing before the committee,
Maihaja said: “When I came on board in late April, 2017, I met N4.6 million in our coffers and liability of N1.5 billion and our monthly allocation of N500 million cannot go a long way in procuring these materials.
“This was also the time when the international agencies announced the scaling down of their funding by 80 per cent. That was the situation on ground when we came on board.
“Before I came, contracts were paid for without proper documentation and that is why N1.5 billion is unpaid till date because there was no certificate to prove that. A memo was just submitted that due diligence process be instituted and that is what we are doing.”
But these clarifications notwithstanding, the adhoc investigative panel of the House of Representatives refused to go beyond the current DG’s tenure into probing how the agency was managed in the past also given that Maihaja has consistently said he inherited some rots in the agency and was doing his best to correct them.
The acting chairman of the committee, Hon. Ali Isa, while fielding questions from newsmen after the resumed hearing on Thursday, said the committee only had the mandate to investigate the activities NEMA in the past 12 months when Maihaja became the DG. He said, “We are not aware of anything concerning the former DG. I have not received any petition concerning that.
“As far as Im concerned, the commitee’s assignment that was given, was the investigations the House mandated that we should conduct from January 2017 to date, in a motion that was referred to the committee and there are specifications and referrer to that motion”.
During the day’s sitting of the committee, it emerged that Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State has already told the Reps members that his state did not receive any relief material from NEMA for over a year despite being affected by insurgency. The governor, in a letter delivered to the committee, stated that “Yobe has not received any correspondent or relief material from the NEMA since the assumption of the current Director-General”.
The alacrity with which Geidam testified against Maihaja, who is from his state, may not be unconnected with the running battle both men have had. Maihaja had challenged the nomination of Gaidam as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the last Yobe state guber election at the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal and all the way to the Supreme Court.
He had asked the court to nullify the governor’s election, contending that Gaidam made false declaration in INEC Form CF 001 and a false School Leaving Testimonial by the Borno State Government on 22nd December 1969 “when Borno State Government of Nigeria and Yunusari Local Education Authority (LEA) were yet to be created or come into existence.”
The quest for indictment of Maihaja over alleged fraudulent activities in NEMA can been better appreciated with the history shared by him and the Yobe governor. A source conversant with the events, but who prefers annonymity, told TheNigerian, “Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Governor Geidam are conspiring to nail the NEMA DG.
“The vested interest that they will only probe the last one year as a directive from the Speaker of the House. It is malicious and suspicious, and doesn’t hold water under both common sense and law.
The Speaker’s office shares money to people after every sitting on the probe and if such money is part of the taxpayer’s trust in his custody then Nigerians also need to know that the whole thing is a sham,” the source said.
This supposition must have made the chairman of the Reps committee to clarify that the House of Representatives has no interest in the probe, adding that it was only exercising its constitutional powers as enshrined in section 89 of the 1999 constitution.
“We have no other interest, we have no business with any agency that wants to investigate anyone. During our investigations, nobody, including the DG mentioned the former DG that would warrant his invitation,” Hon. Isa said.