N54bn Alleged Inflated Road Contract: Reps Resumes Hearing Today
An investigative hearing into the allegation concerning the inflation of the 41km Ijebu Igbo-Ita-Ibadan road contract from N9.8 billion to N54.3 billion held at the instance of the House of Representatives is expected to continue on Monday.
Speaking during the flag-off of the investigative hearing held last week Thursday, the Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon. Kwamot Laori who urged all the stakeholders to keep sentiments aside, underscored the need for all the parties to provide facts so as to find a leeway.
He explained that the “investigative hearing was organised to probe the consistent failure of the contractor to fulfil the contract obligation for the construction of Olomi-Oloju Oro road also referred to as Ijebu Igbo – Ita – Ibadan road.”
According to him, because of the importance of the road to the area, the Committee was mandated to investigate why the road is not yet completed.
“It is our desire to hear from all sides and I want to tell you, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not here to pass judgement. We are here to find out what happened and the judgement will be delivered in the plenary because we have to go to House where the decision will be taken.
“I want to implore us to be frank so as to get to the root of this problem for it to be solved and I want us to be concise. We are not here to witch-hunt anybody, we are not here to trample on the rights of anybody. Everybody that appears here has an equal right to be heard and we will really do so,” the Committee Chairman assured all the stakeholders.”
In his presentation, Executive Director of DC Engineering Limited, Engineer Ade Adedeji disclosed that the contract which was supposed to be completed within two years lingered for five years, sequel to the Federal Ministry of Works’ inability to pay 15 per cent mobilisation fund of N1.3 billion.
He noted that the company was mobilised after 6 months of the commencement of clearing and earthworks, with the payment of N452 million against the sum of N1.4 billion which represents 15 per cent of the N9.8 billion.
According to him the contract was awarded on 3rd July 2018 and mobilized to the site at Ijebu Igbo and commenced operation for about three months after a while moved to the Ibadan section as a result of the demolition of residential apartments, churches, mosques as well as economic trees and request for compensation from the villages.
Engineer Adedeji who presented relevant documents including the letter of the award of contract, alleged that haven inflated the contract sum from N9.8 billion to N54.3 billion, and the project became a challenge for the Federal Government to fund.
According to him, DC Engineering Limited had requested for upward review of 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
He however expressed surprise that the same ministry that refused to review the contract upward to at least N14 billion, re-awarded the same contract to AREATECH Construction Limited at the sum of N54.3 billion without the termination of their contract.
While responding, Director of Highways South, Federal Ministry of Works, Engineer Adedamola Kuti said the ministry had terminated the contract of DC Engineering in September 2022.
He was, however, silent on why they refused to review the contract sum upward to at least N14 billion as requested by 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 the 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 promised the probe panel that he will go and come back.
In the submission of the Solicitor, Tolu Babaleye & Co. on behalf of 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 a 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 a statement submitted to the ad hoc committee.
Responding to the allegation of Hon. Sadipe’s involvement in the contract, the Director of Highways South, Federal Ministry of Works, Engineer Adedamola Kuti denied having any deal with Hon. Sadipe.
However, he admitted sending her a congratulatory message after she emerged victorious in the last general election.
Hon. Sadipe who presented her statement as well as other documents also denied having any relationship with the contractor, AREATECH Construction Ltd, threatening lawsuit over the allegations against her.
In his intervention, Hon. Laori allayed the fear of the Contractor, that the company may not get justice from the probe panel since Hon. Sadipe is also a member of the parliament and a mover of the motion.
While acknowledging that the Ad-hoc Committee was set up at the instance of Hon. 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 the allegations against her.
Also speaking during the hearing, the Chairman of Olojuoro Road Joint Communities Forum, Oluyole Local Government Area of Oyo State said: “We are not aware of any contractor on the site apart from DC Engineering Ltd. Their equipment as of 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; there is no fund according to them to do everything.”
To this end, the Ad-hoc Committee directed the Federal Ministry of Works and all other relevant parties to submit the required documents before or on Monday, 11th September 2023.