Mystery over who authorised contract worth N8 billion for the supply of grains to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) continued in Abuja as the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness resumed its investigation into the alleged breach of trust by the National Emergency Agency (NEMA).
Efforts by the lawmakers to track the source of the directive to disburse the huge sum to some companies to supply the grains to the IDPs in the North East was truncated after the Accountant-General appealed to the House not to disclose contents of the relevant documents because they are classified as security information.
NEMA could not make any presentation at the hearing because of the absence of its Director-General, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, 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. He was, however, asked to stay through the proceedings as an observer.
The committee had earlier questioned three companies that benefitted from the emergency food and food security programmes on the basis of the release of the funds to them.
BUA, Three Brothers Rice Mill, Dangote Ltd 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 got the job from the agency and received payment from the office, though it has an outstanding payment 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 in a public/private partnership arrangement. The document showed that it was supposed to be a loan facility to the companies.
The House Committee also queried one of the Permanent Secretaries 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 to supply soya beans. He also said he does not know if there was an award letter or agreement between the federal government and his company on the contract to supply soya beans.
He disclosed that all grains have been given to NEMA, adding that BUA did not apply to CBN for the contract.
On its part, Olam’s Vice President (Rice), Mr Reggie George, reiterated again that Olam did not bid for the N2.4 billion 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, a 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 was not aware of any dealings on 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 instead of in words.
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 two names in the next hearing on Thursday.