With international organistaions and local agencies running out of funds, and with food shortage at its crescendo, the acting President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo approved N5.8 billion for supply of food to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the NorthEast, thereby saving hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who were going to die out of starvation. The noble action of the Vice President has been misinterpreted in some quarters even though he acted within the ambit of the law. In this interview, Gloria Adagbon, a lawyer and human rights activist makes a case for the Vice President and warns against politicizing everything.
Why didn’t the acting President involve NASS in the process before releasing N5.8bn?
Given that the law allows the Vice President to release such funds in an emergency, he seized the opportunity to do so. The national assembly has proven to be anti-progressive, it took them over six months to pass the budget, we could not let Nigerians die away while they padded the North East Emergency budget. The acting President needed to act and that was why he constituted the Presidential Committee which included Minister of fast Finance, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Minister of Agriculture, CBN governor, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, SSA to the President, Office of the Chief of Staff, SSA to the President Planning and Coordination among others. It was an emergency and it would have been suicidal to go through the national assembly, given their greed and self-centeredness. The process was transparent, FG bought local grains from Nigerian farmers and the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Military including the Air Force, were actively involved providing essential and logistical support. There is nothing clandestine by the process, it was there for all to see.
Why was procurement process ignored before money was released?
The procurement process wasn’t ignored or bypassed. Like I explained earlier, this is an emergency and the acting President needed to act fast. Waiting for the agencies to ponder over procurement would have translated to massive loss of lives. The VP was never going to allow that happen under his watch as Acting President. Section 43 of the BPP Act empowered him to approve the funds in an emergency, which was what he did. He acted in good faith and he saved hundreds of thousands of lives by doing this. We must understand that international organisations including the World Food Programme, UNHCR, International Committee of the Red Cross and others were involved in this process, this was carried out transparently and in order. The international aid agencies like WFP were already dealing with shortage of funds to provide humanitarian aid, as funding was cut down by about 85%. This necessitated urgent collaboration between the Government and NGOs, in order to save lives of Nigerian citizens
Why didn’t the VP oversee and ensure the distribution of the rice donated by the Chinese govt?
You will recall that the acting President kicked off the multi-billion naira relief intervention plan for grain distribution in the NorthEast. At the time, about 1.8m people would be reached regularly and 40,000 metric tonnes comprising rice, maize, sorghum and soya beans grown locally by Nigerian farmers would be distributed. But to ask the acting President to monitor NEMA activities alone and leave other pressing issues in the country is ignorance on the part of such persons. Agencies were set up to be managed on day-to-day basis by persons that have been appointed and were qualified to do so. It’s not the duty of the acting President to micro-manage and monitor the delivery or distribution. Duties were delegated, and this was done appropriately.
What is the scope and job duties of the VP as NEMA chairman?
He has an oversight function he does not oversee the day to day running of the agency. It’s like asking the Chancellor of a university why some lecturers involve in sex for marks. This falls on the lap of the Vice Chancellor because he is involved in the day-to-day administration. It’s important to understand that the role of the chairman is somewhat ceremonial and that is why you will not find his picture or profile on the website of the agency. People demanding that he did not act as chairman are uneducated and mischievous, and if adults cannot understand the organogram of agencies, you fear for the kind of orientation of what they are passing on to the younger generation.
Why is the House calling for the reinstatement of the six NEMA directors and sack of the NEMA DG?
This is the clearest case of corruption fighting back. The directors in NEMA were accused of corruption and financial misappropriation. EFCC found monies in their accounts that could not be accounted for, but instead of insisting that these directors be probed, House of Reps led by a certain Ali Isa jumped to their defence insisting that they be reinstated. The House had claimed that Civil Service Rule was grossly abused, and natural justice turned upside down even after the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita and acting EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu had appeared before the Committee to explain that their suspension was in order. EFCC explained that they were suspended in order to allow detectives unfettered access to vital documents. The directors knew what investigators would find and they immediately got corrupt lawmakers to make noise out of nothing. This is a shame and that is why this administration has insisted that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us.
Did the VP release N5.8bn or N33bn?
The VP only approved N5.8billion as against the N33billion peddled about in the media by some unscrupulous persons. These are agents of fake news who are trying all they can to tarnish the blistering career of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo but unfortunately for them, Nigerians are wiser now. We know our left from our right and we can see clearly. If you have read all the reports from NEMA to the House of Reps report, you will find that the VP approved N5.8 billion which was very much in order. We must not allow agents of fake news to derail us in our fight against corruption.