The House of Representatives has set up an enquiry into allegations that the recently recovered $308 million Abacha loot which the Presidency said will be used to expedite work on three major infrastructures i.e. Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Expressway and the Second Niger bridge may be diverted into private accounts, using Julius Berger, as a conduit.
The House Committee on Works, it was learnt at the weekend, has resolved to summon the Minister of Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and the management of Julius Berger Plc over the allegations.
Recall that the House of Representatives on Thursday last week, directed its Committee on Works, to set up an inquiry into allegations of contractual malfeasance to the tune of N206billion, involving the ongoing 2nd Niger Bridge project.
A motion of “National Importance”, sponsored by Rep. Ifeanyi Chudi Momah, representing Ihiala Federal Constituency of Anambra State, entitled: “House to Investigate Julius Berger FMWH, NSIA, others Over Contract Monopoly”, was adopted by the House.
The House in adopting the Motion alleged that phase 1 was awarded on Public-Private Partnership bases and 2(a) and 2(b) of the 2nd Niger Bridge, was to be awarded as traditional contracts at the rate of N118billion, the government allegedly breached the deal and awarded same to Julius Berger at the whopping cost of N206billion.
“Phase 2 of the job was to be awarded as Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer basis under PPP scheme, phase 2a and 2b were to be awarded as traditional contracts, the same job, has now been awarded to Julius Berger for N206Billion, as against the cost of N118Billion valued by BPP”.
The motion advised that “A Swiss challenge bid process, ought to be adopted to avoid a situation of potential conflict of interest”.
The House lamented that all projects handled by Julius Berger, under the SUKUK arrangement, were defective and proceeding at snail speed.
The Green Chamber alleged further that there was evidence of slow pace of work on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano-Zaria-Kano Expressway and the 2nd Niger Bridge, leading to traffic and deaths.
“Julius Berger is involved in all these three critical projects and other major road projects under SUKUK. All these projects, are lagging behind schedule, which brings to fore, Julius Berger’s capacity to handle the projects, simultaneously”, the motion stated.
The House accused the government of flouting sections of the Public Procurement Act, and denying Nigerians, the required transparency, due process and judicious application of resources for the contract.
“The use of Direct Procurement (Section 42 of the Public Procurement Act), in awarding these projects, as against the Opening competitive Bidding (section 24 of the Public Procurement Act), have deprived Nigerians of transparency, due process and potential to save money”.
After a brief debate of the Motion, the House urged the Works Committee, to determine if the contractors had the capacity to deliver the contracts awarded as scheduled.
The Committee is to also “investigate the level of work done on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Abuja-Kano-Zaria-Kano Expressway and 2nd Niger Bridge, in order to determine if the amount disbursed so far, has a commensurate value with the job done till date”, and to “determine if there is a potential conflict of interest in awarding the contracts to a single contractor”, and to also “determine if the contract sums, have been inflated”.
The Committee, with Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, presiding, was given 4 weeks, to report its findings and recommendations, back to the House in 4 weeks”.
These projects were designed to be funded by Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), domiciled at Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, for effective funding.
As at December last year, 19,520,949,317.16 was released to Section 1 of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, N80,242,079,039.46 to the 2nd Niger Bridge, N50,856,044,301.27 to Abuja-Kano-Zaria-Kano Expressway, totalling N150,619,072,657.89.