…We will get to the root cause of road project failure in Nigeria – Hon. Kwamoti Bitrus Laori
There was a mild drama in National Assembly during an investigative public hearing when a construction company accused Hon. Tolulope Akande Sadipe and some officials of the Federal Ministry of Woks of hijacking an ongoing project and jacking up the price of the contract sum from N9.8 billion to N54.3 billion.
During the sitting of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee investigating the alleged failure of construction and rehabilitation of Ijebu-Igbo Ita Ibadan Road, the Executive Director of DC Engineering Ltd, Engr. Ade Adedeji said the 41 KM road project was awarded to the company in 2018 at the sum of N9.8 Billion and the contract was supposed to be completed within two years but it took the Federal Ministry of Works 5 (five) years (2018 to 2023) before it was able to pay 15 percent mobilization fund of N1.3 billion.
He said the slow pace of the work was due to lack of release of fund. According to him, the 15 percent mobilization fees was paid in several installments until about few weeks a ago that the last installment of the 15 percent was paid.
Engr. Adedeji said his company has approached the Ministry of Works to review the contract sum from N9.8 Billion to at least N14 billion due to the high cost of materials, but the ministry of works refused. Adedeji said they were surprised to notice that the same ministry that refused to review the contract upward to at least N14 billion, re-awarded the same contract to AREATECH Construction Ltd at the sum of N54.3 billion without the termination of their contract.
The Director of Highways South, Federal Ministry of Works, Engr. Adedamola Kuti who represented the ministry in his presentation before the committee said the ministry has terminated the contract of DC Engineering since September 2022. He was however silence why they refused to review the contract sum upward to at least N14 Billion as requested by the DC Engineering but went ahead to re-award the same contract to another company, AREATECH Construction Ltd at the sum of N54 billion.
When asked to provide the details – letter of termination of contract with DC Engineering Ltd, certificate of no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to AREATECH Construction Ltd and Federal Executive Council’s approval letter, he merely promised the probe panel that he will go and come back.
However, a letter from BPP dated May 10, 2023 and addressed to the Solicitor of DC Engineering and sighted by our correspondent cancelled the said certificate of no objection issued to AREATECH Construction Ltd on the ground that a contract cannot be re-awarded to another contractor without first terminating the initial contract. The BPP also urged the Federal Ministry of Works to collaborate with the DC Engineering Ltd for the contract review.
In the submission of the Solicitor, Tolu Babaleye & Co on behalf of the DC Engineering Ltd, the company alleged that the activities of Hon. Tolulope Akande Sadipe, a member representing Oluyole Federal Constituency of Oyo State have been frustrating the efforts of his client to execute the project.
“Our Client is also very much aware of the activities of Hon. Tolulope Akande Sadipe, a member representing Oluyole Federal Constituency whom our client informed us has turned to a torn in its flesh and who has been promoting AREATECH Construction Ltd as contractor to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing for the contract to be re-awarded to the said company for a reason best known to her.
“This vexed issue is known to everyone in the ministry especially two particular directors working hand in hand with them and all attempts have been made to re-award the contract for the sum of 54.3 billion Naira from the initial contract of 9.8 billion Naira to AREATECH Construction Ltd whom we understand had signed an agreement with the ministry and had submitted advance payment guarantee from its bank.
“This is a big distraction to our client. Please note that our client wrote for an upward review of this contract sum to an amount far below 54.3 billion Naira but the request was ignored and yet some people in the ministry wanted to re-award the job to someone else for 54.3 billion Naira all in a desperate attempt to defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria.,” the Solicitor to DC Engineering Ltd said in statement submitted to ad hoc committee.
Responding to the allegation of Hon. Sadipe’s involvement in the contract, the Director of Highways South, Federal Ministry of Works, Engr. Adedamola Kuti denied having any deal with Sadipe but he admitted sending her a congratulatory message after she emerged victorious in the last general election.
Hon. Sadipe also denied having any relationship with the contractor, AREATECH Construction Ltd threatening law suit over allegation against her.
The Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Hon. Kwamot Bitrus Laori said the committee is not witch-hunting anyone but to ensure they get to know the cause of failure of the road project and the way forward. He allayed the fear of the DC Engineering Ltd, that the company will not get justice from the probe panel since Sadipe is also a member of the parliament and a mover of the motion resulting to the setting up of the ad hoc committee.
Hon. Laori said though the committee was set up at instance of the Sadipe’s motion, she is not a member of the committee and she has been excluded from all the committee’s activities except her invitation to respond to allegations against her.
On Engr. Adedamola Kuti’s position that the contract of DC Engineering Ltd with Federal Ministry of Works has been terminated in September 2022 and that the company is owing the ministry, the committee was thrown into a confusion when the Executive Director of DC Engineering Ltd, Engr. Ade Adedeji said the ministry had just paid some amount of money to them about two weeks ago as part of 15 percent mobilization fees.
When Hon. Laori asked the host communities of the said project to clarify which company is now handling the project or whether no contractor is on site, the Chairman of Olojuoro Road, Joint Communities Forum, Oluyole LG, Oyo State said “We are not aware of any contractor on the site apart from DC Engineering Ltd. Their equipment as at July, 2023 were on the site doing ‘palliative work’. I called it palliative work because it is only the critical aspect of the job we wanted them to do they are doing because there is no fund according to them to do everything.”
Our correspondent learnt that the present Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi in a recent meeting with the contractors and some top officials of the ministry warned against sharp practices and shady deal. Umahi also allegedly told all the contractors to come forward with the certificate of no objection with the view of raising standard of the road project to a better and high quality one. Engr. Kuti also confirmed the meeting of Umahi with contractors and top official of the ministry but did not give any detail about it.
The representative of the Public Complaint Commission, Hon. Asuwaju Folawuyo Bello, (Commissioner Oyo State) blamed the mess of the Nigerian Roads on the activities of the ministry of works officials. Bello who said they have received several complaints over the said project, expressed dismay on how a project that supposed to be completed within 24 months (two years) will take Federal Ministry of Works five years to pay only 15 percent of the contract sum.
The ad hoc committee chairman, Laori directed the Federal Ministry of Works and all other relevant parties to submit the required documents to the committee secretariat before or on Monday 11 September, 2023.
The committee then adjourned sine die..