In a daring move, a committee of the House of Representatives has decided to invite Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to appear before it.
The committee’s decision on Thursday was reached as part of its investigation into an agency, whose board Mr. Osinbajo chairs.
The committee is investigating alleged violation of public trust by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) that led to the suspension of six directors of the agency.
Mr. Osinbajo is the chairman of the governing board of the NEMA and the lawmakers want him to explain his role in the suspension of the officials as well as other scandals rocking the agency.
At its public hearing, the committee, on emergency and disaster preparedness, also summoned Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Winifred Oyo-Ita, Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
The 35-member committee, headed by Ali Isa (Gombe-PDP), also resolved to invite the representatives of the State Security Service, pension commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service, as well as ministers of agriculture, national planning and finance.
The next stage for the committee is to write the affected persons, including Mr Osinbajo, to appear before them.
The National Assembly, or its designated committee, has constitutional powers to summon all government appointees, with lawyers saying neither the president nor the vice president is constitutionally exempted from such summons.
A senior lawyer, Simon Ameh, said the invitation was in order so long as the vice president would not have to talk on any other matter to do with his office.
“If they will focus only on NEMA, it is in order,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.
He added that the constitution gives the legislature power to oversight the executive, hence the National Assembly has powers to invite any occupier of such position.
Another lawyer, Ola Adeosun, agreed with the submission, saying the National Assembly is empowered under section 88 of the constitution to summon any government official, including the president.
“The invitation is in order” he said.
THE NEMA SCANDAL
The governing council of NEMA on the same day it was inaugurated on April 3, suspended six directors of the agency. The affected officials allegedly kicked against the NEMA DG’s contract awards in breach of due process.
The House committee, however, demanded the immediate recall of the six directors.
It said the civil service rule was grossly abused, and natural justice turned upside down in the ways and manners the directors were placed on suspension.
The suspended officers are Director of Finance and Accounts, Akinbola Gbolahan; Ag. Director, Special Duties, Umesi Emenike; and Director, Risk Reduction, Alhassan Nuhu.
Others are pilot in charge of Air Ambulance and Aviation Unit, Mamman Ibrahim; the Chief Maintenance Officer, Ganiyu Deji; and the Director of Welfare, Kanar Mohammed.
During the cause of investigation, the committee said it discovered N3.1 billion was approved and released for the agency by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for procurement of rice for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Boko Haram-ravaged North-east.
It said the Director-General of the agency, Mustapha Maihaja, expended the sum on award of contracts to companies with no legal qualifications to get contract from the federal government.
Two of the companies, Olam Limited, a foreign firm, and Three Brothers Rice Mill, were said to have been awarded huge rice supply contract without meeting the pre-qualification conditions.
It was also discovered that the Chinese government donated 6,779 metric tonnes of rice in June 2017 but a large part of it was abandoned by NEMA for about one year at the ports without clearing. As of today, the lawmakers said, the rice has accumulated about N800 million in port charges.
Mr. Maihaja, while appearing on Thursday before the committee, admitted that his agency has so far paid N400 million as part of the demurrage.
The committee frowned at NEMA for spending N400 million taxpayers fund on the demurrage on the rice due to the long delay in clearing the containers.
Mr. Maihaja is expected to report to the committee with relevant documents relating to the rice donation and other allegations at the next hearing. No date was fixed for the next hearing.