|Rt. Hon. Kabiru Mijinyawa|
Adamawa State House of Assembly Standing Committee on Works, Land and Survey has uncovered fraud in the award of contract for the construction of 7.1 kilometer Mubi bypass-Digil road awarded to Hydro Source and Resources Nigeria Limited.
The House committee's investigations further revealed that the contract was awarded at the total contract sum of N1.175 billion by the then Governor Murtala Nyako sometimes in January 2013, was not captured in the budget.
The lawmakers discovered that due process was not followed in the conversion of over N280 million meant for the Mubi bypass-Dgil road to settle the project executed on the Fufore-Ribadu road without virement from the House of Assembly.
It could be recalled that the State House of Assembly in 2014 irked by the failure of the Contractor to mobilize to site and execute the contract according to specification unanimously resolved to direct for the revocation of the contract and subsequent recovery of the amount paid to him.
However, 4 years after the resolution and directives by the 4th Assembly according to the House source, the directives were yet to be complied with by the ministry hence the resolve by the present Assembly to step up further investigations into the matter.
It was against this background that the House at its resumed plenary session presided by the Speaker Hon. Kabiru Mijinyawa resolved and detailed its House Standing Committee on Works, Land and Survey to investigate the resolution of the 4th Assembly which directed the State Ministry of Works to recover the sum of N280 million allegedly paid to the constractor as mobilization fee for the execution of the project.
But speaking earlier during an interactive session organized by the House Committee on Works and held at the committee room during the week, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Works, Engr. Mohammed Suleiman told the committee members that in January, 2013, the contract was awarded for the construction of Mubi bypass-Digil 7.1km road and Fufore-Ribadu 11.6km roads were awarded to Hydro Source and Resources at the sum of N1.175 billion and N879.059 million respectively.
He said based on that agreement the contractor was given his award letter on the 2 project duly signed by the then Commissioner and the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, saying as usual the contractor applied for 25 percent mobilization advance in respect of Mubi bypass-Digil road amounting to N293 million.
He stated that likewise the contractor applied for 25 percent mobilization advance in respect of Fufore-Ribadu road to the tune of N219.7 million and the then Governor Nyako approved for the release of such amount for the 2 projects.
The Permanent Secretary narrated that the contractor has made attempt to start the work simultaneously but the work on Mubi bypass-Digil road could not continue because there was a statemate in the payment of compensation, adding that the ministry wrote to the Ministry of Land and Survey for the assessment of the affected properties because their intention was to provide dual carriage road.
According to him, when the owners of the vacant areas of plot and farmlands found out that work was about to start on the road, they immediately shared their properties and structures sprang up, saying that the ministry had a problem because the contract sum which included compensation was inadequate to cater for it.
He informed the legislators that the contractor embarked on the construction of Fufore-Ribadu road since there was no problem of compensation on that road and the project was successfully completed to 100 percent without paying the contractor a kobo apart from the mobilization advance given to him earlier.
He explained that after their consultation with the Governor then on the need to release more money for the compensation of the property owners, the Governor told them that he had no money to meet that demand, stating that when they went back for assessment again, the amount needed had doubled what they earlier assessed on the properties.
Engr. Suleiman further intimated the honourable members that the former Governor told them that since it was the same contractor handling both projects, they should write a memo to him to approve for the transfer of the advance payment on Mubi bypass-Digil road to settle part payment of the completed and duly certified Fufore-Ribadu road.
He noted that as far as the records at the ministry of Works are concerned, they had signed an agreement in respect of the two projects to be handled by the company and the contractor had executed his project according to specifications and presently the State Government is still having his N309 million to settle him.
Additionally, he admitted that the contract had no provision in the budget and was among the allegations used to impeach Governor Nyako by the 4th Assembly, saying that the issue of virement does not arise since the project itself was not captured in the budget.
The Permanent Secretary said the matter had been investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Justice Bobbo Umar's panel as well as the World Bank which wrote to them clarifying those issues, saying that the same contractor that was investigated was awarded contract by the World Bank after clarifying the allegations.
Engr. Mohammed Suleiman pointed out that though he is not a lawyer to the contractor but as far as he is concerned the contractor knowing whether the project was in the budget or not he has nothing to do with it, stressing that the ministry has been doing its job appropriately and in accordance with the laws of the land.
But reacting on the submission of the Permanent Secretary, the majority leader of the House Hon. Hassan Barguma (Hong constituency) said that no institution is allowed in the State and the country in general to write an agreement on a particular project and the executive arm on its own transfer funds meant for one contract to another without virement from the House of Assembly or any legislative house.
Hon. Barguma observed that if that was not done as far as they were concerned it is illegal, illegitimate and fraudulent, saying nobody has the power to transfer money of one particular project to another except the House of Assembly.
The lawmaker posited that since the contractor had signed agreement and collected money to construct Mubi bypass-Digil road and found out that there was some encumbrances, the best thing to have been done was to return the money to the government coffers or else apply for virement.
He vowed that the House would not accept that and must investigate because the process followed is not done anywhere in Nigeria, alleging that there was a signal that 16 months after the contractor collected money the then house was trying to call the attention of EFCC, hence the coming up with letters by the ministry to cover up.
The legislator alleged that after the appearance of the contractor on the floor of the House on 6 June, 2014, the ministry hurriedly processed approval to him that they were converting money given to him over a year.
According to him, financial accountability does not allow such practice, describing the process followed in awarding the contract as more criminal than stealing the money.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the committee Hon. Joseph Ayuba Kwada (Michika constituency) told the gathering that his committee has not gotten not the information needed from the ministry and that he would report back to House for necessary action in due course.
Also speaking Hon. Abubakar Isa (Shelleng constituency) said the ministry was aware of the provision of the 1999 constitution as amended precisely section 128 which empowers the House to carry out investigations, stating that whether the contract was awarded when the Permanent Secretary was in the office or not, the House can invite and investigate him on the activities of the ministry.
Hon. Isa asserted that nobody has any mindset as their concern was to investigate what is within their constitutional responsibilities, saying it was very clear that the contract was awarded without budgetary provision and the fact that the issue was investigated in the past it would not deter them from investigating further.
He emphasized that it was a serious misconduct and an affront to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to award a contract without budgetary provisions.