FCT: SENATE QUESTIONS INFLATED ROAD CONTRACTS
BY INALEGWU SHAIBU
SECTION 88 (2) of the 1999 Constitution empowers the National Assembly to carry out over sight functions over government ministries, department and agencies. Such oversights include probing activities of MDAs to ensure that Nigerians are not short-changed in the process of service delivery.
It is also meant to check the abuse of due process by government departments and agencies in contract awards and executions and to ensure strict compliance with extant laws of the country especially in the application of public expenditures.
Thus, the Senate Committee on FCT, went on series of oversight tours of departments, agencies and facilities in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Led by Senator Smart Adeyemi, the panel toured facilities including road projects being handled by the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA.
Sen Mohammed & Sen Adeyemi
It also visited departments such as Social Development Secretariat of the FCDA, Society against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria, SAP_CLN, and the Millennium Tower that is still under construction.
At the Social Development Secretariat, the Secretary, Mrs. Blessing Onu told the committee of the efforts towards providing enabling environment to better the social lives of FCT inhabitants, rehabilitation of prostitutes and welfare services for deviant youths, orphans and many others.
She also enumerated the challenges being faced by the secretariat such as inadequate fund, capacity development for staff and public protests against the arrest and rehabilitation of commercial sex workers that loiter the streets of FCT among others.
Mrs. Onu further told the Committee that the Secretariat through the SAP-CLN had made tremendous efforts in trying to weed out commercial sex workers from Abuja metropolis.
She said that over 100 young commercial sex workers were arrested and taken for rehabilitation, 34 had been rehabilitated and graduated from the correction center, with vocational skills in tailoring, hairdressing, and designs and over 40 were still in the facility acquiring the necessary training to make them self-reliant upon graduation.
Aside training, the Secretariat also offers N100,000 as take off grant to the young ladies upon graduation. Another N60,000 is added after six months of graduation, when it would have been accessed and vetted by SAP-CLN that the beneficiary has made tremendous progress with the first installment in her business.
The work done by the Social Development Secretariat received great commendations from the Committee with assurances from Senator Adeyemi that the panel would impress it on the National Assembly to improve on the budget of the FCT as well as enact necessary laws for smooth operations of the FCDA.
But the Committee was less impressed with the other stops it made, especially at the road projects being handled by the FCDA. During the tour, there were stopovers at Idu Industrial Area road project, Outer Northern Express Expansion project, which is a 10-lane Abuja-Kubwa expressway, and Guzape lot 1.
The Committee noted with sadness the slow pace of work on each of the road projects and was alarmed by the contract sums and the processes that led to the awards.
In the case of expansion of the Abuja-Kubwa-Zuba express way, the project starting from Asokoro round about, behind the presidential villa is a 39 kilometer road that terminates at Zuba, a surbub of the FCT. It was shared between two construction companies, CGC Nigeria limited and Dantata & Sawoe, an indigenous firm. CGC had 19.5 kilometer to construct at the sum of N81 billion while Dantata was given 20.3 kilometer at N65 billion.
The Committee uncovered N16 billion variance in the contract sum which Adeyemi described as scandalous and unjustifiable.
He said: 'You cannot justify the N16 billion difference. It is unjustifiable; it is not acceptable to the Senate. We are not just novices on construction. We have looked at the project and there is not much difference. One is 20.5 kilometers and the other is 19.6 kilometers leaving a difference of 800 meters. That cannot justify the cost difference of N16 billion. The topography and the terrain are the same so you cannot justify the cost difference.
'We will take it up. We will get different consultants to review the project. We are going to summon you with the minister and if we come to the conclusion that it was inflated then you will refund the Federal Republic of Nigeria.'
FCDA officials, including Chief Resident Engineer of the project, Engr. Felix Nwankwo and the CGC Project Engineer, Yian Kang could not convince the Committee why there was wide discrepancy between the two projects which have only a length difference of 800 meters.
Also the company failed to convince the lawmakers on why it was importing materials for the project including street light poles instead of the locally manufactured ones.
The Committee also turned down explanations from FCTA officials that the cost difference came from additional works which included a few 'U' turns and pedestrian bridges.
Adeyemi said the Senate would not watch and allow the nation to be ripped off. He directed the FCDA and the CGC to produce details of the contract costs for scrutiny by the Senate.
Most appalling to the committee was the contract for the construction of roads in Idu Industrial Area. The contract had dual components, foreign and local. It was awarded to Salini Nigeria Limited under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the sum of 78 million Euros, being the foreign component and N23 billion representing the local component.
The Committee also questioned why the Gazape lot 1 road project around Asokoro area of Abuja was awarded to Gilmore Nigeria Limited at 69 million Euros beside another N14 billion.
Although, the Managing Director of Salini, Dr. Piero Capatinio, explained that the Euros represented the foreign components of the contracts, the committee was however not satisfied with explanations.
Adeyemi while querying the contracts said: 'They are commendable projects that are needed towards improving the standard of our city. But more importantly, I have a strong reservation about the manner some of these contracts were awarded in time past. I see no justification, it is indefensible, inexplicable that when you are constructing a road, you talked about foreign components and you have dual system of payments, that is you pay in naira and euro.
'To me that is very retrogressive, it is uneconomical. It is not equally dignifying for a nation like Nigeria. More than half of the materials that are used are locally sourced. If there is a need for them to bring in any material that is required in the course of constructing these roads, I think that they could equally be acquired through their payment in naira.'
'So we are going to invite them, the due process, the minister, the contractors, we are going to look at the bill of quantity. Not that the projects are not good, but at what cost are you constructing these roads? They are constructing roads at almost N4 billion per kilometer. It is extremely too high and I think it is the highest in Africa. I do not know of anywhere in Nigeria where a kilometer can cost more than a billion naira, even in the Niger Delta.
'It is really uncalled for that at 50 years as a nation, we are still succumbing to a form of slavery because once your own currency is not respected by foreigners, then, you can forget about the nation. Our currency is our pride, I think that whosoever that is going to do business in Nigeria must transact in naira and not in foreign currency.'
Promptly, the Committee had issued summons to the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, and Director Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP Engr. Emeka Eze, contractors and hosts of others connected with the contracts. The essence is for all those summoned to explain the observed anomalies.