By NBF News
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The Extractive Industry Monitoring Group (EIMG) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to extend the probe of the accounts of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to contract awards in the last four years for construction of gas pipelines to Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), an NNPC subsidiary.

The resolution was contained in the communiqué by the group following an emergency meeting of its executive committee in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the weekend.

The EIMG said a presidential investigation of the gas contracts had become imperative in the wake of the revelations in the media over the weekend that Nigeria may have lost billions of naira in contracts to a controversial Lebanese firm named Zakhem Ltd allegedly  working in collusion with top NNPC officials.

'Like most Nigerians,' lamented the anti-corruption body, 'we are greatly saddened by the fact that the huge contracts had been awarded to a company blacklisted in such African countries as Ghana and Liberia for stupendous corruption, a company, the former British Deputy High Commissioner to Ghana described as 'astonishingly corrupt.'

The communiqué signed by the EIMG president, Engr Chris Daminabo, and the secretary, Mrs Helen Benebo, claimed that the Minister of Energy in Ghana, was fired for allegedly paying $80m upfront  to Zakhem in 2007 for the installation of power turbines worth $70m for the Volta River Authority in Kpone.

It recalled that the  contract awarded to Zakhem for the renovation of the Liberia, Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC) oil tanks was the reason President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia dismissed the powerful chief executive of the company,  Harry Greaves, in May, last year.

The EIMG described as unsettling, a situation whereby NNPC top shots would award strategic contracts to a company with such a controversial profile. 'It does seem that the NGC and NNPC officials have been too blinded by greed to conduct due diligence on contracting firms, especially foreign ones,' bemoaned the body.

'No less worrisome', it continued, 'is the penchant for variations of contracts given to Zakhem even when it has not executed any within the timetable, to say nothing about the quality'.

Among the jobs awardedthe Lebanese firm whose costs had since been reviewed upwards was the engineering and construction of phase one of gas supply plants at Geregu measuring 4.5kms by 18inches, originally scheduled to last 12 months, but ongoing. The construction of the 35km pipelines by 24 inches to Abeokuta, Ogun State, for $49m was not completed, though it was initially scheduled to last 12 months, and the cost reportedly varied in Zakhem's favour.