– The controversy surrounding activities at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is still on
– A civil society group has waded into the crisis bedeviling the agency
– According to the group, officers indicted by the financial crimes watchdog have been running from pillar to post with the aim of frustrating the EFCC
The New Initiative for Credible Leadership (NICREL) has raised an alarm over alleged attempts by some top-ranking officers at NEMA to scuttle the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from beaming its searchlight on the agency.
It also warned some masked agents going about the town with non-existing documents to smear the reputation of the current NEMA DG, Mustapha Maihaja, stressing that their efforts would hit the rocks because it will not stop their prosecution.
The EFCC had few weeks back invited 20 top officers of NEMA for questioning over alleged N2.5 billion scandal in the agency. Consequently, the board of NEMA suspended six directors of the agency indefinitely in connection with the missing fund.
NICREL alleged those officers indicted by the financial crimes watchdog have been running from pillar to post with the aim of frustrating the EFCC from doing its job.
Making the revelation on behalf of the group on Monday, April 16, Patriot Gabriel Apeh, executive director, NICREL, called on the EFCC to stop at nothing by sniffing out those milking the treasury dry. It warned the anti-corruption agency not to be distracted by the officers found wanting in the missing funds.
Apeh tasked the EFCC to ensure that its ongoing investigation does not end up as another media circus in which hype dominate the media and public opinion space without an outcome that is beneficial to the anti-corruption war.
His words: “The ongoing probe must therefore end in indicted persons being charged to court and convictions secured to act as deterrence for others who think it is okay to steal from the needy.
“We have, in the course of monitoring development around this saga, discovered that the investigation is already on the way to being jeopardized unless urgent steps are taken to get the perspective right.
“There is already a distortion of the facts and context such that the entire exercise could be truncated simply on that account. Those under investigation are making spirited efforts to link the current leadership to the crimes they have committed in the hope that the administration will refrain from indicting itself.
“Our charge is that, the chairman of the NEMA board, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo must not cave in to the blackmail by the ex-NEMA DG and the directors that have been indicted for fraudulently skimming off money belonging to Nigeria. Attempting to rope in the incumbent Director General, Mustapha Maihaja, is aimed at roping in Professor Osinbajo, as chairman of the board, in the belief that he would call off the probe.
“This plot, being executed by staff loyal to the indicted directors, was written as a petition to the various statutory bodies which investigated the activities of the Maihaja led executive of NEMA as Director General. These were all thoroughly investigated by the board of NEMA and those indicted have been recommended to the EFCC which is the ongoing trial that many of these agents want to scuttle overnight.
“The over 700 vouchers, contract documents attached their various petitions in an attempt to hit back at the Director General Mustapha Maihaja for failing to cover their track is a clear indication that those behind it have unfettered access. Our finding is that the documents were questionably sourced over weekends and public holidays when the perpetrators used master keys to gain access to documents that were under the custody of other staff. The desperation to cast aspersion on the anti-corruption war is really high on their part.
“At a later date, Vice President Osinbajo, as the chairman of the NEMA board, should order a separate information into launching a separate probe into how these indicted persons unlawfully breached the internal security of the agency to steal documents.
“We are also aware that the Ex-DG, Mohammed Sani-Sidi, who is at the middle of the entire saga has activated his contacts in the National Assembly to pervert a probe by the House of Representatives that should shed light on what truly happened at NEMA. This is in spite of the fact that the House probe became derailed when the indicted directors and ex-NEMA DG started contacting the House of Representatives Members on the panel.
“We are further at a loss as to why the House of Representatives did not allow the EFCC, as a statutory agency, to complete its investigations before usurping its powers. No Nigerian is in doubt as to the extent to which our members of parliament can behave and blackmail anyone that fails to play ball as usual. It is worrisome and remains a disgrace to our democracy.
“In our view, the investigation of this crime against Nigerians risks being reduced to the usual television and media reality show that any legislative investigation ends up as in Nigeria. The distraction that would result could seriously jeopardize the smooth management of emergencies in Nigeria, in addition to worsening the plight of IDPs.”
The group also called on the House of Representatives to allow the EFCC investigate the matter without undue interference since that is the agency that can prosecute those indicted.
“It will be against national interest to reduce this grievous theft of national funds into an issue for political investigation that will not go anywhere.
“In the meantime, we urge Nigerians to weigh in on this matter and demand that the truth must emerge. This is especially so, when Mustapha Maihaja has continued to conduct his activities with transparency and due process but only to be sabotaged into a medical trial simply for failing to cover up these shameless crooks on a crime that he has not benefited from,” Apeh added.
The House of the Representatives had ordered an immediate recall of directors of NEMA suspended by the governing council of the agency on a purported recommendation of the EFCC.
The affected officers recalled are director of finance and accounts, Akinbola Gbolahan; Ag. director, special duties, Umesi Emenike; and director, Risk Reduction, Mallam Alhassan Nuhu.
Others are pilot in charge of Air Ambulance and Aviation Unit, Mamman Ali Ibrahim; the Chief Maintenance Officer, Ganiyu Yunusa Deji; and the Director of Welfare, Kanar Mohammed.
The EFCC stage a walk against corruption on NAIJ.com TV