The House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee’s Thursday investigation hearing descended into chaos when DC Engineering Limited, a construction business, accused Federal Ministry of Works officials of inflating a road contract from N9.8 billion to N54.3 billion.Read full article
The 41-kilometer Ijebu-Igbo Ita Ibadan Road’s construction and repair have been put on hold for more than five years following the contract’s award. This situation caused the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, to establish an Ad-hoc Committee.
The Federal Ministry of Works was supposed to complete the contract within two years, but it took them five years (from 2018 to 2023) before they could pay the 15% mobilisation fund of N1.3 billion, according to the Executive Director of DC Engineering Ltd., Engr. Ade Adedeji, who was called to appear by the Committee’s Chairman, Hon. Kwamoti Bitrus Laori.
Using documents, such as the contract award letter, Engr. Adedeji claimed that the project’s cost had been overstated, making it difficult for the federal government to fund it.
The lack of cash being released was the cause of the work’s delayed progress, he claimed.
He claims that the 15% mobilisation fee was paid in a number of installments up until a few weeks ago, when the final installment of the 15% was made.
Adedeji claimed that because of the high cost of supplies, his company had requested that the contract value be increased from N9.8 billion to at least N14 billion, but the Ministry of Works had refused.
He claimed that they were shocked to learn that the same ministry, which had initially declined to review the contract upward to at least N14 billion, had given it to AREATECH Construction Ltd again for N54.3 billion without terminating their original agreement.
The Federal government of Works’ Director of Highways South, Engr. Adedamola Kuti, testified on behalf of the government before the committee that DC Engineering’s contract had been cancelled as of September 2022.
He remained mute, however, on the reason why they chose to award the same contract to AREATECH Construction Ltd. instead of the DC Engineering, for a new value of N54 billion, despite their refusal to increase the contract sum to at least N14 billion as asked.
When asked to provide the information, including the letter terminating the contract with DC Engineering Ltd, the certificate of no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to AREATECH Construction Ltd, and the letter of approval from the Federal Executive Council, he made a commitment to the investigation panel that he would go and return.
According to the DC Engineering Ltd.’s submission to the Solicitor, Tolu Babaleye & Co., the company’s efforts to complete the project have been hampered by Hon. Tolulope Akande Sadipe’s activities as a representative of Oluyole Federal Constituency in Oyo State.
“Our Client is also very aware of the activities of Hon. Tolulope Akande Sadipe, a member representing Oluyole Federal Constituency, who our client informed us has turned into a torn in its flesh and who has been advocating for AREATECH Construction Ltd. to be hired by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing for a reason best known to her.
All attempts have been made to re-award the contract to AREATECH Construction Ltd, who we understand had signed an agreement with the ministry and had submitted an advance payment guarantee from its bank, for the sum of 54.3 billion Naira as opposed to the initial contract of 9.8 billion Naira. This vexed issue is known to everyone in the ministry, especially two specific directors working hand in hand with them.
For our client, this is a major distraction. Please take note that our client requested an upward review of this contract sum to a sum significantly lower than 54.3 billion Naira, but the request was denied. Meanwhile, some ministry officials wanted to award the job again for 54.3 billion Naira in a last-ditch effort to defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria, the solicitor for DC Engineering Ltd. said in a statement provided to the ad hoc committee.
The Federal Ministry of Works’ Director of Highways South, Engr. Adedamola Kuti, responded to the claim that Hon. Sadipe was involved in the contract by denying any business relationship with Sadipe.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged congratulating her after she won the most recent general election.
Sadipe further asserted that she had no connection to the contractor, AREATECH Construction Ltd, who had threatened to sue her in response to the accusations.
In order to determine the root of the road project’s failure and the best course of action moving forward, the Ad Hoc Committee, according to its chairman, Hon. Kwamot Bitrus Laori, is not conducting a witch hunt.
Since Sadipe is both a member of the parliament and the one who moved the motion that led to the formation of the ad hoc committee, he allayed the concern of DC Engineering Ltd that the company would not receive justice from the investigative panel.
Even though the committee was established in response to Sadipe’s proposal, according to Laori, she is not a member of the committee and has been excluded from all of its activities save from an invitation to address the accusations made against her.
When Executive Director of DC Engineering Ltd. Engr. Ade Adedeji said the ministry had just paid them some money about two weeks ago as part of the 15 percent mobilisation fee, the committee was confused about Engr. Adedamola Kuti’s claim that the contract between DC Engineering Ltd. and the Federal Ministry of Works was terminated in September 2022 and that the company is owing the ministry money.
The chairman of the Olojuoro Road Joint Communities Forum, Oluyole LG, Oyo State responded, “We are not aware of any contractor on the site aside from DC Engineering Ltd.,” when Laori asked the host communities of the aforementioned project to specify which company is currently handling the project or whether no contractor is on site. As of July 2023, their machinery was on-site performing “palliative work.”
“I called it palliative work because it’s only the crucial portion of the work we wanted them to complete; there isn’t enough money, in their opinion, to do everything,” the author said.
In a recent meeting with contractors and other senior ministry employees, the current Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi, reportedly issued a warning against dubious dealings and unethical practises.
While confirming the meeting between Umahi, contractors, and top ministry officials, Engr. Kuti withheld any additional information.
The Public Complaints Commission’s representative, Hon. Asuwaju Folawuyo Bello (Commissioner, Oyo State), attributed the state of Nigeria’s roads to the actions of ministry of works employees.
The Federal Ministry of Works has taken five years to pay only 15% of the contract amount for a project that is scheduled to be finished in 24 months (two years), according to Bello, who claimed to have received numerous complaints about the project.
The Federal Ministry of Works and all other pertinent parties were instructed by the chairman of the ad hoc committee, Laori, to deliver the necessary paperwork to the committee’s secretariat before or on Monday, September 11, 2023.