The House of Representatives on Thursday flagged off investigative hearing into multi-billion naira abandoned projects in the communication sector, including the N10 billion international radio monitoring and national spectrum contract awarded to a Nigerian and US firm since 2001.
The lawmakers during the session also frowned at the level of impunity perpetuated in the award of the contract which was allegedly stalled by the death of one of the partners since 2002 before the award of the contract.
In their presentations the Committee, the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Communication, Mr Musa Istifanus and Mr Olusanya Agbe, Director of Procurement solicited for an increase in the annual budgetary allocation to the sector which contributed about 14 per cent to the country’s GDP above the oil sector.
According to the presentation, a total sum of N1.117 billion was paid so far to the contractor for a project that was abandoned since 2008 out of which N675.240 million was accounted for and balance of N501.759 million was not accounted for till date by the contractor.
He affirmed that the sum of $34.083 million was approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC) out of which $28.487 million represented the primary cost of the project.
Subsequently, FEC approved down-payment of 15 per cent of the total project worth $4.2 million (N276,370 million) payment down payment for offshore and N41.484 million for the onshore component of the project.
Despite accusing the companies of failing to account for the sum of N627 million disbursed to the contractors, comprising of $4 million and N41 million to implement schedule 3 of the project in 2006, an additional sum of N283.157 million was released in May 2007 to buy additional offshore equipment.
Similarly, the Ministry paid a total sum of N66.843 million for clearance of equipment at the airport out of which N16.275 million was for the renovation of radio monitoring building in Ipaja Lagos State, out of which N17.916 million was not accounted for.
Also in December 2008, the Ministry paid the sum of N200 million to the contractor.
But when asked to explain the processes leading to the abandonment of radio monitoring equipment projects for which over a billion naira had been expended, the director of procurement, Mr Olusanya Agbe stated that the contract had issues when one of the principal partners, Alhaji Dan Kabo died in 2004.
While declaring the investigative hearing open, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila underscored the importance of excellent infrastructure to growth and development of the economy.
The Speaker who was represented by Majority Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno said: “It is disheartening to note that Nigeria’s infrastructure gap has been widening in recent years owing to, among other things the abandonment and lack of completion of capital projects. Why are projects abandoned?
“What are the reasons for non-completion of Projects? We need to provide answers to these and other related questions. Projects must be completed, and in record time as well.
“I make bold to say that if the House of Representatives, in its oversight responsibility doesn’t step in at this time, we run a high risk of continuing this path of unending national expenditure without verifiable value for money.
“This exercise is therefore very critical given that these abandoned projects have become a constant and ugly feature in our yearly national budgets and a conduit through which national resources are drained”, Gbajabiamila said.
But in intervention, a member of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon. Mukhtar Ahmed who disagreed with the submission of the Ministry officials disclosed that the man – Dan Kabo died on the 5th April 2002, not 2004 as presented by the officials.
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At the hearing, NIGCOMSAT admitted that thought it had some ongoing projects, on one could be said to be abandoned. It gave the project cost to be N400 million awarded to NACCIMA to produce PCVs and other equipment.
The agency explained that N72 million was paid to NACCIMA and all they could get from them is a physical structure built to lintel stage.
The agency, however, suggested a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with STV manufacturers a privately owned company to complete the project.
While ruling, the Committee resolved to summon the management of NACCIMA with the view to get first-hand information on how to resolve the issue.
Another agency summoned was NITDA, the agency explained that it has no abandoned projects as at now rather there is an ongoing project awarded in 2013 with 65 per cent completion. It says a major setback to the project was a land dispute which it said has been resolved. N175 million was the project sum but only N95 million has been released so far.
NIPOST, Galaxy backbones were the other agencies invited and both were able to convince the Committee of their activities and prove it has no abandoned projects but ongoing projects which they intend to complete at the shortest possible time if the needed funds are provided.Read Full Story