The House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness on Wednesday expressed dismay over of the payment of N400 million in demurrage to clear a consignment of rice donated by the Chinese government.
Intended for distribution to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East, the rice, is said to be valued at N414 million.
The committee, reacting to the presentations made by government agencies during its investigative hearing on breach of public trust by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said that the officials in charge did not discharge their functions well, hence the unnecessary spending of taxpayers’ money.
Director General of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, disclosed that the agency paid a whopping sum of N400 million in demurrage to clear the consignment of rice.
Documents submitted to the committee by the Ministry of Finance dated July 20, 2017, disclosed that the total quantity of the rice is 6,779 metric tonnes valued at N414.8 million while the Federal Ministry of Agriculture paid another sum of N272.5 million as the duty.
However, the figure of N400 million excludes the cost of transporting the rice from the ports to the warehouses of the agency and further revealed that about half of the goods are still at the ports accumulating more demurrage.
While making a presentation before the committee, representative of the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Comptroller General Ekekezie Kaycee (Tariff and Trade), said three batches of the Chinese rice donation arrived at the Nigerian port on the 9th of May, the second, 15th August, and the last, 11th September 2017 respectively.
She added that the value of the rice, which came in 151 containers in total, as stated on the bill of lading are as follows: ¥7, 405, 222, 9, 219, ¥650 million and ¥11, 247, 973, at an exchange rate of N46.2450 to one Yuan.
Altogether, she informed the committee, 3, 779 metric tonnes of the rice have been cleared, leaving a balance of 3000 metric tonnes. She identified the two companies that did the clearing as Global View Nig Ltd and Baltic Air and Maritime Services.
Similarly, the representative of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Iloma Simon, said while making a presentation before the committee that they procured waivers for the rice from the Ministry of Finance at three separate times when the goods arrived at the port. Simon’s agriculture ministry counterpart said, in his own summary, that the ministry paid for the clearing of the rice and provided warehouses for storage, but is yet to receive any consignment as at today.
In his submission, Maihaja said NEMA could only start clearing when it received the bill of lading six months later.
He added that due to the emergency situation, the agency relied on section 43 of its establishment Act and engaged Global View Logistics and Baltic Air and Maritime Services without following due process on procurement. The first clearance was done in January 2018. He also added that the 110 containers of rice cleared have been taken to Borno and Yola.
This disclosure enraged the lawmakers who were angry that the poor handling of the clearance of the rice led to a cost of N400 million taxpayers’ money on payment for demurrage.