Reps uncover 169 ghost companies on N1trn rail contracts
By Emman Ovuakporie & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—The House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Failed Rail Contracts, yesterday, unearthed 169 ghost companies that registered as contractors with the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, for projects valued at N1 trillion.
The ad hoc committee raised the alarm during the investigative hearing at the National Assembly, that none of the 169 companies invited by the committee had shown up.
Chairman of the committee, Johnson Agbonnayinman, (Ikpoba/Okha federal constituency), said the need to invite the contractors was important, but lamented that efforts to reach them had so far proven fruitless.
He added that so far, only the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, responded to the committee’s letter.
He said: “You are duty bound to produce the contractors. They are nowhere to be found; they are not faceless but yet they cannot be reached.
“You gave them the job, so you should produce them; we are holding you responsible.”
The committee also asked the corporation’s MD, Mr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, to make available the agency’s record of Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, between 2010 and 2014, and was also asked to tell the committee what the IGR was used for.
In response, the MD said the IGR was used to augment the agency’s overhead budget.
… as MD denies N2bn pension fund request
Drama, however, started when the committee, acting on documents before it, asked the MD to explain all he knew and reason behind his request to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for a return of N2 billion or 20 percent of the corporation’s pension fund to the corporation in December 2014.
Responding, Sijuwade, who was reminded of being on oath, denied making such request to either the Accountant-General or Minister of Finance.
“I never at any time made any request to the AGF to return N2 billion pension fund to the corporation,” he said.
Insistent on getting to the root of the matter, the committee asked the Director of Finance, Felix Njoku, to take an oath in order to take questions regarding the issue.
Njoku did and insisted that there was never any correspondence from his office to the Accountant-General’s on return of the said money.
Not satisfied, the committee veered into what the organisation did with N2 billion that was in the corporation’s coffers around the period under review.
The Finance Director explained that the money was not related to pension and was used to fund ongoing contracts at the time.
He was asked to list the contracts. He promised to make available the records.
The committee also faulted the award of rail contract to Costain Construction Company, claiming that it had no competence in railway projects.
Sijuwade replied that Costain went through due process and was found competent by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, adding that it successfully completed its project.
Chairman of the committee adjourned the hearing and stressed justice and fairness, stating that the probe was not a witch-hunt.