Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday faulted the report of the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness which allegedly indicted him over “emergency intervention of food security to the North-East” in June 2017, when he was Acting President.
Osinbajo’s position was contained in a statement made available to journalists by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande.
In its report, the committee had alleged that N5,865,671,939.26 was approved and released in June 2017 via a memo raised from the Office of the Acting President, directing the Minister of Finance and the Accountant-General of the Federation to so act.
The committee concluded that the payment made was in contravention of approval of the National Assembly. “This conclusion is both false and misleading,” the statement read.
Akande explained that the period in question was a time when Internally Displaced Persons and their host communities faced severe food shortages throughout the North East, as a result of successive poor harvests and abandoned farmlands, minimal cross-border cash crop trade and lost economic opportunities.
He recalled that the United Nations World Food Programme had on April 15, 2017 issued a warning that it would be reducing its support to about 1.8 million IDPs by as much as 85%, due to corresponding reduction in funding by the donor countries.
He added that around the same time, the United Nations Commission for Refugees in Geneva also warned of the growing risk of mass deaths from starvation among people living in the conflict areas.
He said, “The Federal Government moved urgently to prevent the looming disaster by establishing a strategic food intervention plan for the affected States.
“A Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Delivery to the North East was convened and the Committee met on the 13th of May, 2017 to kick off the process, with the then Acting President as Chairman.
“Other members of the Committee included Minister of Finance; Minister of Budget and National Planning; Minister of State for Budget and National Planning; Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Governor of Central Bank; Deputy Chief of Staff to the President; and the Senior Special Assistant in the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.
“Resulting from the deliberations of this and subsequent meetings, the approval referred to in the House Committee’s report was, in fact, based on a request raised by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as facilitator of the National Food Security Programme, via a letter dated May 25, 2017.
“As explained in the said letter, there was an immediate need to distribute grains, including rice, maize, soya beans and sorghum, to Internally Displaced Persons through the National Emergency Management Agency.
“The only way to obtain the quantity of grains required was to resort to the National Food Security Programme earlier established by the Federal Government as a means of shoring up its strategic grain reserves. “