A former Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and six directors have been indicted in an alleged N2.5billion fraud in the agency.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has recommended that the six directors suspected to enable it complete its probe of the agency.
The NEMA board is statutorily chaired by the Vice President. Immediate past Vice President Namadi Sambo chaired the last board of the agency.
Sambo met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, a few days ago. It was not clear at the weekend if the meeting was in connection with the March 1 report of the EFCC on NEMA, which has been sent to the government.
The agency has recommended trial for those found wanting after its probe.
Apart from former DG Sani Sidi Mohammed, the others indicted are Director of Finance and Accounts Akinbola Hakeem Gbolahan; Ag. Director, Special Duties, Mr. Umesi Emenike; Director, Risk Reduction, Mallam Alhassan Nuhu; Pilot in-charge Air Ambulance and Aviation Unit, Mr. Mamman Ali Ibrahim; the Chief Maintenance Officer Mr. Ganiyu Yunusa Deji; and Director of Welfare Mr. Kanar Mohammed.
The NEMA Board, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, may meet tomorrow to consider EFCC’s preliminary report on the alleged corrupt practices.
The EFCC is said to have presented its preliminary findings to the board in anticipation of its endorsement to enable the agency carry out a comprehensive probe of the alleged looting.
An EFCC source said the investigation bordered on “alleged case of conspiracy, abuse of office, misappropriation and diversion of public funds reported to the office of the Vice-President against the former director-general, Sani and others and forwarded to the commission for discreet investigation.”
Some of the alleged sharp practices uncovered by the EFCC are:
whereabouts of N166m out of N285m realised from the commercialisation of NEMA’s air ambulance;
alleged short-change of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with N354, 900, 105. 24;
N238million NEMA cash placed in a fixed deposit account by a director;
interest on a fixed deposit diverted by a director;
some directors have about five to 20 accounts;
NEMA funds moved into personal accounts of directors;
frivolous emoluments claims that were wrongly processed by directors and some officials of the agency;
about N66m out of N280m meant for displaced traditional rulers in the Northeast still unaccounted for; and
curious deposit of suspicious funds in domiciliary accounts of top directors
The report said: “From the investigation carried out so far, officials could not account for funds transferred from NEMA account to their personal accounts.
“Moreover, the funds were being withdrawn in cash and, in some cases, transferred to family members. Also, it was discovered that some of these funds were placed in fixed deposit; both the principal and the interest were withdrawn in cash by the depositor.
“Furthermore, the issue of companies incorporated by the officials of NEMA who are public servants is against the Public Service Rules. This is more so as the companies are active and still receiving funds, in some cases from NEMA.
“There were frivolous emoluments claims that were wrongly processed by directors and some officials of the agency.
”Against this background, EFCC is of the opinion that placing the officials involved under suspension will assist the successful completion of our investigation. This is the only way the commission can have unfettered access to all the necessary documents that will aid our investigation. It is therefore recommended that the officials who are already indicted in the case be placed on suspension pending the conclusion of the investigation.
“The aspect of fake IDP camps and relief materials are still being investigated. Investigation is still on-going and further developments will be communicated.”
The EFCC’s fact-sheet indicated what each of the officers will account for.
The report said: “The brief facts of the case as contained in the petition alleged that former Director-General Sani Sidi while in office misappropriated public funds and perpetrated corrupt acts in NEMA. It further alleged that he conspired with some officers within the Agency, especially in the Department of Finance and Accounts, that shortchanged the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to the tune of over N354,900, 105.24.”
Part of the report states: “From the investigation so far conducted, the ex-DG maintains 20 different accounts in various banks; he is the promoter of Major Enterprises Ltd and Khayas Alliance Farms Ltd; his Standard Chartered Bank US dollar account recorded the following cash deposits ($ 164,000) and (£58,800) which were flagged as suspicious transaction.
“The Director of Finance and Accounts, Gbolahan is the owner and promoter of the company, Ridges and Tillages Limited. He maintains multiple accounts with which he receives suspicious cash transfers totalling N27, 650, 00.”
On Acting Director, Special Duties, Umesi Emenike the EFCC said: “Prior to his appointment as the Ag. Director of Special Duties, he was Zonal Coordinator of the South-South and the Deputy-Director Training.
“While he was Zonal Coordinator of the South-South, Zonal Office, he coordinated the affairs of Six (6) States Emergency Management Agencies namely: Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta and Bayelsa.
“The fund meant for programmes and maintenance of the Zone was paid into the suspect’s personal accounts instead of the Zonal office’s accounts. These funds were withdrawn in cash, transfers and through ATM machines. There is no evidence to show that these funds were utilised for the benefits of NEMA.
“Patrick Ewama, who was the Zonal Accountant of the suspect made several cash lodgments and withdrawals from the accounts of the suspect.
“The suspect maintains 14 accounts in various banks and cash lodgments and transfers were made into the accounts from both NEMA and other sources, out of which about N238million which was received from NEMA into the suspects’ account for activities of NEMA, was placed on fixed deposit and both the principal and interest were utilised by the suspect”:
The Director, Risk Reduction in NEMA, Mr. Alhassan Nuhu has been asked to account for the N15million he transferred into the account of the Director of Finance.
The EFCC said: “The suspect (Nuhu) maintains five accounts in various banks. In one of his accounts, it was discovered that N15 million was received from NEMA and later transferred into the account of another director.
“The suspect and the DFA could not give satisfactory account on all the funds deposited into the suspect’s account from NEMA. He moved NEMA funds into his company account, Dambo Farms Limited.
Concerning NEMA Pilot in-charge of Air Ambulance and Aviation Unit, Mr. Mamman Ali Ibrahim, the EFCC alleged that although he was employed by the agency to set up an Air Ambulance Unit and Helicopter emergency services in 2014, he commercialised the unit.
The report said: “The Air Ambulance Unit was established under the Nigeria Civil Aviation to embark on evacuation of critical and noncritical missions. The suspect’s letter of employment clearly indicates his functions and entitlements as a flight captain.
“He commercialised both the air ambulance and the helicopter, claiming that the directive to commercialise the flight came from the office of the Vice-President and the Accountant-General of the Federation.
“A total of N285 million was realised from the commercialisation of the aircraft, N63 million was paid to the AGF while N11 million was paid to NEMA and the balance is yet to be accounted for.
“A total of N45 million was paid into Aerocare West Africa Limited, a company belonging to the suspect, by NEMA and the suspect in turn transferred it to family members.
“Though he mentioned some members of his crew as beneficiaries of the funds, the account of the former DG, Sani Sidi, witnessed so much inflow of foreign exchange believed to have been derived from the commercialization of the air ambulance since all transactions appeared to be in cash.”
The allegations against the Chief Maintenance Officer, NEMA/in-charge of fuel supply to the generators, Mr. Ganiyu Yunusa Deji, he maintains six accounts in various banks.
The EFCC accused the Director of Welfare, Mr. Kanar Mohammed, of paying the agency’s funds into his accounts.
The report said: “He joined the service of NEMA in December 2011 as Assistant Director, Training and has served as the Agency’s North-East Zonal Coordinator with office in Maiduguri.
He maintains six accounts in different banks and had received so much funds from NEMA to the accounts.
“One of such funds was N214million from NEMA, which was received from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to be distributed to the displaced traditional rulers within the Northeast region.
An EFCC source said: “The amount in question is over N2.5billion. We have interrogated all the affected suspects and they have made useful statements. We have more to unearth but we cannot achieve much because the affected directors are in charge of vital documents.
“So far, we have recommended that these government officials be suspended pending the conclusion of a comprehensive investigation.”
A NEMA source said all the allegations amounted to a plot to witch-hunt some members of the management staff and implicate the former DG.
The source said: “The former DG, Sani Sidi Mohammed, did a good job in disaster management which the present management has not been able to match. They are just desperate to deal with him for committing no fraud.
“The ex-DG served the nation selflessly and responded to major disasters with efficiency, especially attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. The records are there. He also got so many international awards for his performance.
”All our emergency vehicles and air ambulance services have been grounded since this administration came on board. They want to use the probe by the EFCC to cover up their lapses.
“The EFCC should also interact with our union leaders to know the exact situation in NEMA.”
Another NEMA source said: “I think the new board has its own agenda for our agency. The workers are watching and we will respond appropriately. Most of these directors are innocent of the allegations against them.”