As the Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness resumes its investigation into breach of trust by the National Emergency Agency (NEMA), efforts by the lawmakers to track the source of the directive to disburse over N8 billion to some companies to supply grains to internally displaced persons in the North East was truncated after the accountant general appealed to the House not to disclose contents of the documents required because they are classified as security information.
NEMA could not make any presentation at the hearing due to the failure of its director general, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, to appear for the second time in a row. The director of Relief and Rehabilitation, Mr Kayode Fagbemi, who was again mandated to represent him was rejected by the representatives but asked to stay through the proceedings as an observer.
The committee, in the hearing that held at the National Assembly, had earlier interrogated three of the companies that benefitted from the emergency food programme and the food security programme on the basis of the release of the funds to them. All but one of the companies, namely BUA, Three Brothers Rice Mill, Dangote could not tell the committee exactly what office the contract for their supply of grains emanated from.
Only Olam stated that while it did not apply to NEMA for the contract to supply food to the North East, or mop up grains for off season use, it was granted the job the agency and received payment from the office, though it has an outstanding of N274 million.
However, one of the documents before the committee revealed that the disbursement, which all companies said was not a loan facility, came from the Central Bank of Nigeria as a public/private partnership arrangement. The document showed that it was supposed to be a loan facility to the beneficiary companies.
They also queried the permanent secretary of the Finance Ministry on another document which showed that the authorisation to the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay the companies was issued by his office.
In his presentation earlier, the representative of BUA could not tell the committee the agency that awarded the contract to his company, and also said he does not know if there was an award letter or agreement between the federal government and his company in relation to the contract to supply soya beans. This was after he had earlier submitted that there was no contract or agreement to that effect.
While adding that all grains have been given to NEMA, he added that BUA did not apply to CBN for the contract.
On its part, Olam’s vice president (Rice), Mr Reggie George stated again that it did not bid for the N2.4 billion naira contract it got but was informed by the Ministry Agriculture to send an invoice to the ministry of Finance, after a Rice Processors of Nigeria meeting. He also added that there was no advertisement or bidding process that the company responded to or participated in.
Responding to enquiries by the lawmakers, the Permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance, disclosed that there was no contractual agreement, just an instruction from the office of the Accountant General to pay N5.8 billion to some companies, which they complied with.
Office of the accountant general, however, said it is not aware of any dealings of the contract.
The controversy surrounding the legal status of the Three Brothers Rice Mill continued at the hearing as documents related to the company showed three in figure (4) instead of in words as the company’s representatives claimed was the correct name.
The Corporate Affairs Commission and other relevant agencies were directed by the committee to submit all documents related to the company in either of the 2 names in the next hearing on Thursday, which is expected to be the last.