Abuja-Kano road: Reps probe payment of N50.86bn to Julius Berger

• Query company's competence on Lagos-Ibadan highway • You risk losing N155bn contract if fail to deliver within 36 months

The House of Representatives has summoned the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) over the payment of N50.86 billion to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc for the rehabilitation of Abuja-Kaduna-Kano federal highway.

The resolution was passed after the tripartite meeting between the House Committee on Works, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and Julius Berger Nigeria Plc as well as Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).

The contract was awarded at the sum of N155 billion for the reconstruction of Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road with a completion period of 36 months.

Worried by the breach of provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 which stipulates the payment of 15% mobilisation fee on awarded contracts, the Committee resolved to summon management team of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to provide details of payment made to Julius Berger and the justifications for those payments.

In the same vein, the Committee resolved to invite Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) on the ‘Certificate of No Objection’ issued on the proposed 3rd lane on the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road.

Members of the Committee who frowned at the Company’s lackadaisical attitude to the timely completion of key economic roads across the country threatened to ensure that the construction company risked losing the contract if it failed to complete the project within the stipulated time.

The lawmakers who spoke at the marathon meeting frowned at the slow pace of work on the Abuja-Kano as well as Lagos-Ibadan highways.

In his remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Kabir Abubakar said that Julius Berger had by its actions and inactions created a situation leading to loss of lives and traffic gridlock Abuja-Kano road despite being paid mobilisation of over N50 billion.

He argued that Julius Berger may not complete the project within the stipulated 36 months as stated in the contract agreement.

Hon. Abubakar also said that the House was not confident on the construction company’s capacity to concurrently handle the various contracts it was awarded across the country including Lagos-Ibadan highway.

He lamented that the Abuja-Kano road was of strategic importance to not just people of the region but to all Nigerians adding that, the accidents being recorded as well as the hardships being experienced by people plying the road cannot be justified by the company.

According to him: “We will not shy away from our responsibility in taking hard decisions no matter how difficult or painful the outcome might be.

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“What is paramount to us right now is the wellbeing and security of Nigerians travelling on these roads and it is our constitutional duty to look out for Nigerians best interests

“Today, we have invited both the Ministry and Julius Berger to tell us what the problems are and what can be done to immediately address them.

“This meeting has been convened under the provisions of Section 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which empower us to invite any organisation, agency or person to make clarification where necessary, with purpose to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within our legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by us”.

Chairman of the Committee maintained that despite collecting about 32% of the total contract sum, the work done as discovered by the House Consultant was not commensurate with the funds collected by Julius Berger.

Other lawmakers who spoke during the engagement, faulted the Ministry of Works over the award of several road contracts to Julius Berger which they observed seems to have overstretched the company’s capacity, hence leading to the delays being experienced.

They frowned at the procurement process and how the contract was awarded to the company, adding that there are several indigenous or other foreign construction companies that can handle the contracts but were allegedly not given chance to bid for the contract.

While responding, Julius Berger’s Regional Technical Manager, Mr Benjamin Bott, argued that the construction company is doing everything possible to complete the work as scheduled.

He, however, expressed regrets over the loss of lives and inconveniences caused people using the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano as well as the Lagos-Ibadan highways.

Mr Bott informed that palliative measures are being put in place to reduce the hardship being experienced by motorists on the road by patching potholes and collaborating with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to control traffic and reduce accidents.

He disclosed that some sections were not opened to traffic as required because they have not been completed as seen by people.

The Julius Berger official, however, informed the committee that, about 60 kilometres of a completed section of the road will be opened for use in the next two months while work on other sections is going on.

He affirmed that the sum of 32% of the total contract sum worth N50,856,044,301.27 has been paid while the project has attained 26.7% after 18 months into the 36-month competing period.

On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Mr Mohammed Bukar said that the contract was awarded to Julius Berger through a procurement process recognised by the Public Procurement Act.

According to him: ”Despite the fears expressed by the Committee about Berger falling behind schedule, there is no cause for alarm as the company is still within the stated period of 36 months as contained in the contract agreement.”

Mr Bukar maintained that the payment made so far was bases on the certificate of performance as it was the usual practice.

The Permanent Secretary also added that the road project does not have a funding problem as it is being funded through the Presidential Infrastructure funding initiative.

To this end, the Committee mandated Federal Ministry of Works to consider the option of involving other contractors to handle different sections of the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highway to ensure that the project is completed on time and save lives and property.

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