Thursday, 4 February 2016

N1tn contracts: Railway contractors shun Reps’ summons, risk arrest

The House of Representatives on Wednesday threatened to declare the contractors that executed the rehabilitation and modernisation projects of the Nigerian Railway Corporation wanted for failing to honour its invitations.An ad hoc committee of the House, chaired
by a member representing Edo State, Mr. Johnson Agbonayinma, is investigating the contracts, covering the period between 2010 and 2014.

The Federal Government reportedly spent over N1tn on railway contracts with additional funding from the now-rested Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme during the period under review.

However, the House had observed that the execution of the rail projects was not commensurate with the “huge public funds expended by the NRC.”

The committee, which grilled the Managing Director of the NRC, Mr. Seyi Sjuwade, on Tuesday, expressed its frustration on Wednesday over the refusal of the contractors to honour its invitations.

Agbonayinma disclosed that apart from a Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Company, other contractors had failed to respond to the committee’s invitations.

He added, “All the letters we sent out to their addresses were returned; we have not heard anything from them.

“The phone numbers attached to the addresses, we cannot reach; they are nowhere to be found. Are they faceless?

“Apart from CCECC, the contractors have been avoiding us. We shall hold the MD of the NRC (Sjuwade) responsible for this; to bring them.

“We are using this opportunity to invite them again; they must come to explain their roles in the contracts they executed. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear on what the legislature can do in situations such as this.”

The committee said one of the firms, Constain West Africa, won a N12.2bn contract for the Jebba-Kano line.

The job had a duration of 10 months, but members observed that it took “years” before it was delivered.

Sjuwade, however, defended the firm, saying the contractors “successfully” completed the project.

They claimed not to have further links with the company.

“They have long completed their work and packed out of the country. I don’t know where they are, I cannot reach them.

“I will say that the committee should use all that is within its powers to invite them here,” he added.

Another firm also won the contract for the Port Harcourt-Makurdi line in the sum of N19bn.

The committee observed that the firm had been paid N9.6bn, though the job had yet to make appreciable progress.

But Sijuwade insisted that “due process” was followed in the award of all the contracts, adding that the NRC was prepared to take the lawmakers on a tour of the projects sites whenever they were ready.

Lawmakers described as an “anomaly” the complete sidelining of the Board of the NRC in the award and the execution of all the contracts.

The role of the board is limited to supervision of projects, while the management of the NRC could award contracts under N1bn, but referred sums above N1bn to the Ministry of Transport and the Federal Executive Council for approval.

Four former board chairmen of the NRC had earlier appeared before the committee to testify that they were not directly involved in the award of the contracts.

They are Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Alhaji Bello Haliru-Mohammed, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje and Ambassador Ladan Shuni.

Baraje stated, “My board did not play any role other than the inspection of projects since the management of the NRC said we had no business with award of contracts.

“I had to resign on the 12th of November because I was a toothless bulldog; there were no activities for me and there were also political reasons.”

Sjuwade confirmed to the committee that none of the former board chairmen awarded any contracts as the country’s Public Procurement Act bars them from taking charge of contracts.


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