According to an exclusive report by SaharaReporters, the Ahmed Mustapha Habib-led management team of the National Emergency Management Agency is currently enmeshed in financial fraud running into billions of naira.
A source in the agency accused Habib of violating a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari on probity and accountable handling of funds.
He added that the Director-General and some ‘cabal members’ have drained the finances of the agency without any significant project to match the billions of naira allocated to it annually, setting it on an imminent path of failure.
“NEMA has been suffering from not having a clear-cut direction in its operations, which was the principal reason for creating the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The level of corruption at the agency was at its peak. But from all indications, the new ministry has not sanitised the agency,” the source told SaharaReporters.
“The apparent lack of structure has necessitated rampant corruption, overinflation of contracts, and diversion of relief materials in most cases.
“The agency is currently being run by a cabal, and these cabal members ensure that any Director-General appointed dances to its whims and caprices. Unfortunately, this trend has continued unabated even with the recent appointment of Ahmed Mustapha Habib by President Muhammadu Buhari to transform the agency’s fortunes.
“Upon resumption of duty, Habib had lofty plans for turning around the agency’s fortunes, but unfortunately, he has also been consumed by the greed and anomalies present in the agency.
“The Director-General is now a stooge of the cabal as he has jettisoned the lofty plans he nurtured for the smooth operations of the agency. He is now dancing to the whims and caprices of those that have held the agency to ransom.
“It is unfortunate that there is no hope in sight for NEMA as it stands as Habib is now neck-deep in the rot in the agency. One of his personal aides once told me all the billions acquired from the agency is for his 2023 political ambition.”
The source continued, “What is happening today in NEMA is unprecedented, and the disappointment is palpable. One would have thought that the new Director-General would have braved the odds to clean the Augean stable, but unfortunately, the reverse is the case.
“This new regime seems to have taken things to another level of contract inflation and squandering of the resources of the agency at the detriment of the smooth operations of the agency. The level of corruption is mind-boggling. Friends and cronies are laughing to the bank while victims of disasters continue to wallow in pain and deprivation.
“Habib recently constituted a committee to supervise all NEMA projects and members of the committee were singlehandedly constituted by him. I can tell you that the names in the committee are strange ones. Initially, we thought they were from the ministry, but to our chagrin, they are all consultants handpicked by him. Even we staff members were not carried along.
“The terms of reference for the project monitoring committee include reporting directly to the DG, ascertaining the suitability of projects and cost of such projects to be determined by the DG, and a 20% upfront payment as consultation fee for every project undertaken by NEMA.
“One of our grain suppliers recently met the committee for evaluation. He was told point-blank that he would provide a signed bank cheque to cover 50% of the total contract sum upon engagement.
“He said one of the emissaries sent to inspect his warehouse ended up requesting a meeting somewhere in Wuse 2 Abuja. He showed him the budgetary allocations for all the projects which was in the tune of six billion naira for North East and North West and was told that the original budget was three billion and if he was willing to play ball as the balance has to be remitted to a disclosed account.
“The man who had been with us for years protested, and that was the end of the meeting. I later gathered that another prospective company was approached, and the project is near completion at the moment. The interesting part of it all was that committee members stated that payment would be paid in three tranches of two billion naira each and that upon payment of the first tranche, the money must be remitted before the second tranche and work would commence at the payment of the third tranche.”
Another staff member in the procurement department told SaharaReporters that N20,773,524.32 was budgeted for November 2021 but 60 percent of the amount went to projects that didn’t emanate from the department.
“The budget for November was N20, 773, 524.32. I can authoritatively tell you that 60% was not from our department from this amount. But we had no choice but to process payment vouchers on the instruction of the DG,” he said.
“This is the same for previous months, and nobody dares raise an eyebrow. I recall one of my colleagues in the audit department questioned one of such payments, and it didn’t take 24 hours before he was transferred to the Ministry to resume in an obscure unit. At this rate, we are tempted to believe that what is happening at NEMA is even bigger than the DG and the DG seems to be a willing accomplice.”
SaharaReporters learnt that relief items from the agency are being repackaged and displayed for sale in markets.
“For example, Joke, Ameta and Obodaoba, communities in the Isheilu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State were ravaged by flood some months back, leading to massive displacements and destruction of homes and farmlands.
“The only intervention by NEMA was the provision of stipends to affected persons, while in the books of NEMA, the sum of N2 billion was used in mitigating the effect of the flood in these communities through the provision of makeshifts homes and provision of food items in the affected communities. This is the new order in NEMA under the leadership of Ahmed Mustapha Habib,” one of the sources said.
The Information Officer for NEMA, Manzo Ezekiel, however, denied the allegations against the management of the agency.
He said, “Firstly, there is no cabals in the NEMA, it’s not true.
“About relief materials seen at markets, once these materials are given to the beneficiaries, they become their personal properties. You can’t accuse the giver again. We don’t even distribute materials alone, we do that with officials of state government. So, it’s not true that our staff are involved in the diversion of relief materials.”