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NEMA DG: Why N2.4bn rice for IDPs’re in warehouses

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• Reps panel summons Adeosun, Ogbeh, others

Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, has explained why the 135,500 bags of rice donated to the Federal Government, by the Chinese Government, for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), are still at a warehouse in Lagos.

Maihaja said  the bags of rice, worth N2.4 billion, with a little above N400 million demurrage paid for the clearance, have not been diverted.

He told lawmakers, yesterday, that no bag of rice meant for IDPs was either missing or diverted at the ports.

“The bags of rice are being kept in warehouses in Maiduguri and Yola, pending the completion of the clearance of the huge volume at the ports in Lagos,” he said.

Maihaja said although  the clearance started in January, the delay was caused by the process of securing exemptions and waivers, which the federal government is addressing.

The NEMA Director-General made the clarifications during the continuation of  hearing on the operation of the agency, by the Isa Ali-led House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness.

Maihaja said the delay in clearance of goods at the ports was not peculiar to NEMA.

“About 135,500 bags of rice, worth about N2.4 billion,  were donated to Nigeria, by the Chinese Government. The actual clearance started in January and those already offloaded are being kept in warehouses in Maiduguri and Yola. The bags of rice were not missing and they were not diverted.

“The delay in completing the clearance was caused by inherent process, including securing exemptions, waivers and other clearance related matters. This delay in clearing government goods is not only peculiar to this exercise, it is applicable to many.

“The federal government has noted the inherent process in clearing goods and it is looking at eliminating the causative factors. As soon as the clearance is completed, the bags of rice will be offloaded and distributed to the IDPs.”

Maihaja also explained the logistics involved in clearing the bags of rice.

“As soon as we secured the necessary dcuments, we liased with all relevant agencies concerned with clearing, but, we  have to invoke section 43 (1) (b) of the Emergency Act, because the goods have stayed for six months in the port.

“Secondly, it was a tough decision to, considering the situation we found ourselves. We had to consider the condition of the people of the region, that is the North East, who are in danger of hunger and famine. We have to consider the condition of the rice, too.”

Meanwhile, the committee has summoned the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh to appear before it.

Others summoned are Minister of  Budget and National Planning,  Udoma Udo Udoma and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service ( NCS ), Col. Hameed Ali (retd .

The committee, which is investigating the alleged violation of public trust in NEMA, issued the summons at its resumed hearing, yesterday.

All those summoned are to explain their roles in the movement of the relief materials.”

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