This article explains all you need to know about the N5.8billion misappropriation allegation levelled against Vice President Yemi Osinbajo by the National Assembly.
The House of Representatives has been dragging Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for two weeks now, over a certain N5.8billion that was disbursed to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in June of 2017.
This article will walk you through what the House of Representatives is saying, Osinbajo’s response to the allegations of not following due process and why this is such a big deal for everyone.
Did Osinbajo really disburse N5.8billion as Acting President?
During one of those times when President Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria for his routine medical vacation in London, his deputy, Osinbajo, stepped in to oversee Nigeria’s affairs as the constitution stipulates.
It was at a time when Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) fleeing Boko Haram's bombs and bullets in a restive Northeast region, were starving and badly needed succour.
According to presidency spokesperson, Laolu Akande, “on April 15, 2017, the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP), a major aid organisation and food supplier to the region, had issued a warning that it would be reducing its vital support to about 1.8 million IDPs by as much as 85 per cent due to corresponding reduction in funding by the donor countries.
“Around the same time, the United Nations Commission for Refugees in Geneva also warned of the growing risk of mass deaths from starvation among people living in the conflict areas.’’
To prevent the humanitarian crisis in the Northeast from worsening, the presidency, through Osinbajo, approved the said N5.8billion to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
As Akande puts it: “There was an immediate need to distribute grains, including rice, maize, soya beans and sorghum, to Internally Displaced Persons through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
“The only way to obtain the quantity of grains required was to resort to the National Food Security Programme (NFSP) earlier established by the Federal Government as a means of shoring up its strategic grain reserves.
“It was in consequence of the Federal Government decision to urgently purchase the stored grains for distribution to Internally Displaced Persons that the CBN made the proposal for approval of 30,905.08 Metric Tonnes at N5,229,685,333.26.
“NEMA also originated a request to the Acting President, dated May 25, 2017, requesting the sum of N829,026,456.00 for general logistics, branding & packaging, tracking, security, personnel, media and publicity and contingency costs of taking the grains from their respective locations in Kano, Kaduna, Funtua, Ibadan and Gombe to Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Jigawa States.’’
So, yes, Osinbajo did approve the sum of N5.8billion as relief aid to displaced persons.
Why does the House have a problem with Osinbajo’s approval and the disbursement?
The House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness has concluded that Osinbajo disbursed this chunk of money without following due process or public procurement rules.
Chairman of the House investigative committee, Ali Isa, says as chairman of the governing board of NEMA and approving authority at the time, Osinbajo certainly has tons of questions to answer.
Isa explained that the approval process for the N5.8bn sum contravened the National Assembly’s power of approval, as the money was removed from the Eurobond without the consent of the National Assembly.
“There was no procurement, there was no due process, no contract, yet the money was released and expended,” he stated.
Isa adds that the disbursed money didn’t fix the problem it was meant to fix.
“We invited various state governments and the governors or representatives of the various governors who told us that no bag of grain was delivered to their states. So, we gathered our facts from the presentations from various states and stakeholders,” Isa says.
The lawmaker adds that even though Osinbajo’s name wasn’t mentioned in the report, there is no way he is going to absolve himself of how the money was frittered.
“There is nowhere in my report where I mentioned the Vice President or Prof. Yemi Osinbajo but he may have questions to answer as the chairman of the governing board,” he adds.
Osinbajo insists he did nothing wrong
Speaking through Akande, his spokesperson, Osinbajo says the lawmakers have got it all wrong.
“The House Committee concluded that the payment made was in contravention of approval of the National Assembly. This conclusion is both false and misleading”, Akande says.
Osinbajo’s spokesperson adds that because it was an emergency measure, the vice president acted within the ambit of the law.
“Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act makes provision for emergency procurement, in which case the procuring entity is allowed to engage in direct contracting for goods and file a report thereafter with the Bureau of Public Procurement", he says.
Osinbajo also disagrees that the grains were not delivered to IDPs.
“The suggestion that the grains were never delivered to the target states is also blatant falsehood.
“In fact, the then Acting President personally inspected the electronic truck-tracking unit established in Maiduguri for the purpose of monitoring the transportation, and flagged off the food distribution on the 8th of June, 2017.
“Besides, there was the integration of a robust monitoring and evaluation system into the operation in order to facilitate a transparent and accountable process.
“Therefore, all insinuations on this matter regarding purported indictments and perceived violations of due process or the constitution are baseless and totally false.
“Such interpretations are flawed and should be utterly ignored,’’ he said.
In summary, Osinbajo wants the world to know that the approval followed due process, while the House thinks otherwise.
What do you make of both sides of the story?