We’ve not received $1bn arms’ request from Buhari – Reps

House of Representatives

…Summon Osinbajo over suspension of NEMA staff***

The House of Representatives said on Thursday that it had yet to receive any request from President Muhammadu Buhari, seeking approval for the $1bn proposed for spending on the procurement of military hardware to fight Boko Haram insurgents.

But, it clarified that whenever the President sent such a request, lawmakers would consider it like any other request from the President.

The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, who spoke on the issue in Abuja, explained that the position of the legislature remained that it had not received any request from the President.

He said, “Our position on this matter is this: Mr. President has not sent any communication to us on the $1bn. All we know is that it is work in progress at the level of the executive. We have yet to be informed.

“However, it is the job of the National Assembly to appropriate funds from the Federation Account. Any time a request on the $1bn is forwarded to us, we will work on it.

“This is the position of the House on this matter. We want to lay to rest the frequent inquiries into this matter. We don’t have a request before us. Anytime it comes, we will work on it.”

Namdas, who also gave an update on the 2018 budget, said the April 24 date set for its passage remained unchanged.

“We earlier gave a date. We are working within that date, which is before the end of the month. April 24 is almost like the end of the month. So, we will pass the budget,” he added.

The budget of N8.612tn was laid before the National Assembly on November 7 by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Meanwhile, the House in plenary, passed a resolution to investigate the proposed payment of $17m to lawyers by the Attorney General of the Federation (Mr. Abubakar Malami), for the recovery of funds stashed abroad by the late Gen. Sani Abacha.

The House, following a motion moved by an All Progressives Congress member from Benue State, Mr. Mark Terseer-Gbillah, described as strange, a decision by Malami to hire two Nigerian lawyers for $17m, when indeed the Federal Government had in 1999, engaged, a Swiss lawyer, Enrico Monfrini, to do the same job.

It noted that the $321m  ‘Abacha loot’ recently negotiated with the Swiss Government came from the past actions of the government.

The House noted that members could not understand why Malami was proposing another $17m (about N6bn) for the Nigerian lawyers.

The two lawmakers were previously lawyer to Buhari when he founded the defunct Congress for Progressive Change.

The motion reads in detail, “(The House is) aware that Mr. Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer, was engaged by the Nigerian Government since 1999 to work on recovering the Abacha loot for which the sum of $321m was a part and had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello-Adoke was the Attorney General of the Federation.

“That Mr. Mofrini had since been paid by the Federal Government for his legal services for the recovery of the money, which was then domiciled with the Attorney General of Switzerland, pending the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Nigeria to avoid the issues of accountability around previous recoveries.

“(The House) notes that all that was left was the signing of the MoU, which is a government-to-government communication for the money to be repatriated to Nigeria.

“Also aware that Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, had curiously engaged the services of another set of Nigerian lawyers in 2016, namely, Oladipo Okpeseyi, SAN), and Temitope Adebayo for a fee of $16.9m (about N6bn), without due process.

“(The House) recalls that both lawyers had worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, a legacy party of the APC when Malami was the legal adviser to CPC.

“Also recalls that the terms of the agreement reached with Mr. Mofrini for the recovery clearly spelt out that no other lawyer would be engaged for the return of the money to Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Management on Thursday summoned Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo to appear before the committee to answer questions on the reasons behind the suspension of six senior officers of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Aside the VP, the committee also summoned the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, the Head of Service Federal Civil service of the Federation ( HoFCS), Winifred Oyo-Ita and the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) Ahmed Idris.

However, the committee said that the vice president was at liberty to send a representative because of his tight schedule.

The chairman of the committee, Honourable Ali Isa handed down the ruling during an investigative hearing on the breach of public trust by NEMA.

The House committee also called for the recall of the six staff of NEMA saying the process of their suspension by the agency did not follow the Civil Service guidelines.

On the suspension of the senior NEMA staff, the NEMA boss, Mustapha Maihaji told the committee that “The governing Council of NEMA took the decision” and he acted on the decision of the governing council.

On the N5 billion Northeast intervention fund, the DG said no money of such amount was received by NEMA except N829m for logistics and security.

He, however, confirmed that food items worth the said amount was received while N829 million was used for the movement of the materials to the region.

“I received items not money worth N5,036 billion and we were instructed to pick them from the stores. Some companies have not however delivered theirs like Golden Agric input Ltd.

Punch with additional report from Citizen