Melodrama in N/Assembly as Ministry of Works Officials Disagree with Each Other over Inflated Road Project from N9b to N54b

…Probe Panel Summons Director Engineering Highway, Finance, Legal, Others


There was a kind of melodrama when the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee investigating the alleged slow pace and controversies surrounding the re-award of Ijebu-Igbo Ibadan Road Project began hearing.

National Assembly Complex

The Hon. Kwamoti Bitrus Laori ad hoc committee had last Thursday 21st September, 2023 visited the project site in Ibadan Oyo State and parts of Ogun State and thereafter invited the Federal Ministry of Works and the contractor for a meeting with the lawmakers on Tuesday 26th September, 2023.

However, during the investigative hearing, the lawmakers requested the representatives of ministry of works to give explanation regarding the re-award of the ongoing Ijebu-Igbo Ibadan Road project (about 45km) to another company when the original contractor is still on site.

Engr. Adedamola Kuti, Director, Highway (South West), Federal Ministry of Works had told the probe panel during its inaugural sitting on September 7, 2023 that the said contract being handled by DC Engineering Ltd had been terminated since September 2022 and re-awarded to two other companies. He then promised the lawmakers to make a copy of the termination letter available to them within 72 hours.

However about three weeks later, neither Kuti nor any official of the ministry of works was able to make a copy of the termination letter available. The ministry officials were also unable to provide any letter regarding the approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) authorizing the re-award of the project to another contractor at N54 billion. They did not also provide any piece of information regarding the bidding process.

Engr. Ade Adedeji, Executive Director, DC Engineering Ltd told the committee that he did not receive any letter of termination of contract from the ministry of works, stating that their equipment and workers are still on the project site. He said the same ministry has certified their work and just paid them last month, August 2023.

Engr. Adedeji however, expressed concern on how the officials of the ministry will ignore their request for the review of the projects due to the rising cost of materials from N9.8 billion to at least N14 billion but the same ministry officials went ahead to re-award the same project to another contractor at N54 billion.

When the lawmakers asked the representatives of the ministry of works led by Engr. Agboola Olajide, Deputy Director, Highway to make justification for the re-award of the project, there was confusion among them. Olajide later said indeed the termination later has not been issued but the project has been rewarded to another contractor, Areatech Construction Ltd since September, 2022. He noted that it is the duty of the legal department to issue such letter. The lawmakers quarried his assertion noting that all the departments in the ministry supposed to work in synergy.

When the lawmakers also asked why the ministry of works still certified the work done in May, 2023 by DC Engineering and still paid them in August 2023 instead of seeking means of recovering money given to the contractor, the deputy director echoed what his boss Engr. Kuti earlier told the committee during its inaugural sitting in September 7, 2023 that it was an automated payment by computer. However, a check by our correspondent indicates that this is just a cover-up because before any payment is authorized by the ministry of works, it goes through offices headed by directors and deputy directors, these include planning, audit, checking, CPO and finance department.

The Ijebu-Igbo Ibadan road project was awarded to DC Engineering Ltd in 2018. It was expected to be completed within 24 months (2018 -2020) but from the documents made available to the ad hoc committee, only about 15% (N1.3 billion) of the contract sum (N9.8b) was paid to the company from 2018 to 2023 by the ministry of works, a situation many attributed to the slow pace of the work.

During the inspection of the project by the lawmakers last week Thursday, it was observed that a company, Duhu & Sons Construction was handling 7km road from the 45km road. The company was awarded 14km and mobilized in 2011 but it was reviewed to 7km in 2013 and still paid some amount of money. After 5 years of neglect, 45km was awarded to DC Engineering inclusive that of Duhu & Sons On 23rd December, 2019 the ministry of works reduced the DC Engineering’s job by 7km, reduced the contract sum form N9.8 billion to N8.8billion and still re-awarded the 7km to Duhu & Sons. During the inspection by the lawmakers, there was no presence of Duhu & Sons on the site for long time. Only the bridge was constructed with partial width of asphalt in some places and some portions of the road have failed. Engr. Olajide claimed that the company did 3.7km but the committee chairman, Laori made it clear that what they observed was less than that and it was not too far from the bridge at Ita-Egba in Ogun State. It is obvious that Duhu & Sons has been on the 7km road since 2011 and paid some amount of money and the company is no longer on site. The ministry of works failed to make clarifications whether they have terminated the contract of Duhu & Sons or not

In the documents sited by our correspondent, final warning letter was given to DC Engineering Ltd on December 26, 2022 while Engr. Kuti told the committee that the Ijebu-Igbo Ibadan road contract was re-awarded to two companies in September 2022. He claimed it was awarded to two companies to work from both ends, Oyo and Ogun States. Ironically, Engr. Olajide told the committee on Tuesday that it was re-awarded to only one company. It took them over a minute before mentioning the name of the company, Areatech Construction Ltd.

Meanwhile, a letter from the Bureau of Public Procurement to the Federal Ministry of Works conveying the ‘Certificate of No Objection’ for ‘Areatech’ received on February 23, 2023 showed the ministry presented N67 billion to BPP for approval but it was reduced to N54 billion by BPP. The BPP’s letter only indicated ‘Areatech’ and how Engr. Kuti arrived at two companies handling the job is still a question begging for answer.

Similarly, a letter referenced, BPP/S./CCM/23/VOL./358 dated May 10, 2023 from BPP indicated that ‘Certificate of No Objection’ granted to ministry of works in favour of ‘Areatech’ has been suspended. BPP based its decision that there is no how a certificate of no objection will be issued to another company without evidence of termination of existing contract.

When Hon Kwamoti Laori sought to know the consultant in charge of the project in order to clarify many issues, Engr Olajide told them there was no consultant, but following contributions from some of his team, he said there was a consultant but his contract has expired.

The House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee made it clear to the contractor, Dc Engineering Ltd that if tax payers money paid to him doesn’t equate to job done, they would ensure the company refunds the money to government treasury.

Following the controversies over the re-award of the Ijebu-Igbo Ibadan road project, the committee then summoned the officials of the Federal Ministry of Works , Director of Engineering Highways (South West), Director of Finance and Legal Departments to appear before them on Thursday 28 September, 2023. Hon. Kwamoti Laori led-committee said the probe panel will not hesitate to summon the minister of works if these officials fail to give necessary explanation regarding the controversies over the re-award of the said project.

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