By Yusuf Msheliza
The era of fake news is here again. I recalled I jumped out of my seat when the House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness stated that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) abandoned about 6,779metric tons of rice donated by the Chinese government for distribution to Internally Displaced Persons in the North East.
The first thing that came to my mind is that Yakubu Dogara is at work again. Maybe he is still rueing his loss at the scheme of affairs in his home state. Just maybe he has vowed to take his pound of flesh from anything related to the Governor of Bauchi State. But the question is, do we throw decorum in the wind because we want to settle political scores? Do we cast aspersions on the personalities of people just only because of their affiliations? In my opinion, the attitude of the enemy of my friend is my enemy must stop if we are desirous of making progress as a people and as a country.
I say this for the apparent fact that the news and reports emanating from the House of Representatives on the activities of NEMA are nothing but a concoction of half-truths and a smear campaign to rubbish and give the dog a bad name so that it can be hanged. I dare to say that I am a stakeholder holder in the humanitarian sector in Nigeria and I say without fear or favour that the humanitarian efforts of NEMA under Engr. Mustapha Maihaja in the last two years is unparalleled. This much other critical stakeholders can attest to.
And so to think or imagine that the House of Representatives has been mentioning and misleading the general public on the activities of NEMA is uncharitable, as well as it is unimaginable. So much so that everything now smacks of a mockery. However, I must add that if care is not taken, the House of Representatives might lose its credibility in the court of public opinion if it continues on the wild goose chase because as it stands, every tom, dick and harry can easily decipher that the House of Representatives is pushing a personal agenda on NEMA.
And the reason as I have always stated merely is that the Speaker of the House of Representatives detests the Director General of NEMA because he is friends with the Governor of Bauchi state who Yakubu Dogara has disagreed with politically. Now, does this not amount to an abuse of office? Is this attitude not unbecoming of the Office of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives? Sincerely, I am at a loss as to how we can make progress in this country.
The first giveaway of possible partisanship is during the public hearing, the committee refused to admit the testimony of a representative of Maersk Lines, Blessing Ebri, who stated that six months after the arrival of the donation at the Nigerian port, no agency of government came to claim or clear it and that it was not until NEMA’s intervention in January 2018 that the rice began to be cleared and distributed to the victims of insurgency in the North East.
She said: “we had to write to the shipper, which is the Chinese Government, that no one is coming forward. The shipper approached us on January 30, 2018, and linked us with NEMA. NEMA later negotiated based on the fact that the rice was for emergency and it was agreed that N200 million flat fee be paid by NEMA, excluding the standard charge. Also, the representative of APM Terminals, Daniel Odibe, said 271 containers passed through their port facilities and due process was followed by NEMA.
Given these mentioned above, I am at a loss on why the House of Representatives has decided to go the haul on spreading the fake news on NEMA.
On the other accusations, I recall that the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, absolved the NEMA Director-General, Mustapha Maihaja, of any wrongdoing in the utilization of the N5.8 billion for relief materials in the North East. But the House of Representatives would hear none of that. The Accountant General of the Federation stated that the need to release funds was as a result of the scaling down of funding by international agencies operating in the region, which could jeopardize the lives of the people of the region.
I stand to be corrected, the activities of NEMA since Engr. Mustapha Maihaja assumed leadership had witnessed a progressive leap. Those in the humanitarian industry can attest to this. Only recently, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja bagged the Humanitarian Service Icon award for his sterling performance at NEMA as well as the reforms he brought into the establishment upon appointment. The award organizers also stated that the selection of the NEMA boss took into consideration many issues including the creation of an enabling environment for citizens to recover from natural disasters like flood, and insurgency and communal clashes that have ravaged the country and her citizens in recent times.
At this point, I do not know what the House of Representatives wants Nigerians to believe. I am also at a loss if indeed those characters there understand that they are representatives of the people. And if as representatives of the people, they cannot join hands with an agency as critical as NEMA in easing the burden of humanitarian disasters in the country, then it is a big shame. And for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, it is a bigger shame on him as the promoter of fake news on NEMA.
Msheliza is Spokesman, Peace and Rehabilitation Initiative, Maiduguri.