We’re not involved in N5.8bn North-East food supply – Agric ministry

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The Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Audu Ogbeh, told the House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness on Monday that his ministry was not involved in the supply and distribution of the controversial N5.8bn food grains to victims of Boko Haram attacks in the North-East.

The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Gombe State, Mr. Ali Isa, is investigating the expenditure of N17.8bn by the National Emergency Management Agency in the last one year.

The House had ordered the investigation after petitions alleged that the Director-General of NEMA, Mr. Mustapha Maihaja, awarded contracts to several firms in violation of due process.

Maihaja has so far insisted that he has not committed any infraction.

On Thursday, the DG had stayed away from the hearing at the National Assembly for the third consecutive time, forcing the panel to threaten to have him arrested if he failed to turn up on May 31.

The N5.8bn food grains distribution is one of the issues that the committee has been investigating.

On Thursday, Ogbeh, who was represented by the ministry’s Director of Food and Strategy, Mr. S. A. Haruna, told the committee that his ministry was neither briefed nor involved in the programme.

He stated, “We did not attend any meeting concerning the Federal Government’ grains. Our mandate is to keep the Federal Government’s stock, but on this N5.8bn, it appears the Central Bank of Nigeria decided to engage four companies.

“So, I will say we are not aware. We are not involved.”

The panel resolved that the CBN, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and NEMA should provide details on the 5,000 metric tonnes of food grains.

The committee specifically asked the agencies to explain the status of the N5.8bn after the mop-up programme on the grains.

At an earlier sitting, members of the committee and Maihaja had disagreed over the procurement of N1.6bn relief materials for states hit by flooding in 2017.

Each of the 16 affected states was to receive materials worth N100m from the emergency agency to assist the victims.

But, lawmakers observed that while NEMA received funding for the intervention in July 2017, many of the states started receiving deliveries in March this year, nine months after the floods wreaked havoc.

Members argued that besides the violation of the procurement law, many of the states had yet to receive the relief materials.

They also noted that most of the 289 firms engaged by Maihaja to make procurement for NEMA did not meet the requirements of the law.

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