By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah,
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday received a report on the probe of activities in the Niger Delta Ministry between 2009 and 2015, which uncovered massive contract scams from the N700 billion released to the ministry within the period.
According to the report, despite the huge sums paid to contractors, only a dismal 12 per cent of contract performance was recorded, even as government now plans to recover the outstanding balance from the contractors or have them prosecuted.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the weekly FEC meeting presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja
He said, “The revealing content of the report shows that over N423 billion has been expended in the region by the Ministry alone, not other intervening agencies. From this amount, project execution rate has been at 12 per cent, with an average completion rate of a project standing at five years and the impact rate is eight per cent.
“So, today we have sought approval from Council to have the recommendations of this report conveyed to the legitimate agencies charged with the statutory responsibilities of recovering government assets that are either misappropriated, misused or found to be idling in some quarters.
“With this, it means all those who have accessed government resources for one purpose or another must be compelled to make adequate use of same, otherwise face the recommendations that go with such violations. That is our position concerning that report and we have got Council approval for that”.
The Minister explained that the figures mean that 60 per cent of the funds appropriated for 427 contracts were paid out to contractors who only managed a 12 per cent completion rate.
He continued: “When we say 60 per cent, it is 60 per cent of the amount of money that was actually appropriated, being N700billion. And so, 60 per cent of that constitutes N423 billion.
“So, to find that N423 billion has been expended in the region with the type of result we see obviously shows that there is something tangibly and obviously wrong with how procurement had been carried out in the Ministry”.
On the punishment to be meted to defaulting contractors, Usani said, “The measure of action to be taken to address the shortfall of our expectations of commitment to contractual commitments will be the determinant of what will be done. So, those that require sanctions will be sanctioned and the sanctions may not be uniform. It will also be according to the measure of liabilities owed by each of those contractors.
“Some should be compelled to return to site. Some, of course, should be made to refund money – those who we have seen by action displaying criminal intent by collecting money and not appearing at site at all.
“The report is not just all about punishing people. There are also those who have performed well and are commended and the report recommends that they should be encouraged to carry on in their contractual commitments”.
He also noted that officials like those of evaluation or monitoring personnel the ministry found to have connived with the defaulting contractors will be approximately dealt with, though he didn’t confirm any impending purge of officials.
On the slow pace of work on the East -west road, Usani said, “As you know, no government agency is sufficiently funded. That becomes a major challenge. The second issue is to address the concern about commitment or lack of it by government. No administration, to the best of my knowledge, within a democratic setting has been more committed than this present government.
“And demonstration of this is the action of this administration to go ahead and seek extra budgetary special loan credit from China to the tune of $500million dollars. Now we are making a fresh application to increase that to $774million dollars to be able to tackle an aspect of that road and this came under five of the special projects nominated by the president to see that work doesn’t stop and if you look at our budget as lean as it is- about 50 per cent goes on the allocation to the east west road.
“Beyond that, for this year, the budget ministry proposed N8 billion counterpart funding for the credit facility we are getting from China. So, we are committed but it is just impossible to say we will be able to allocate enough funds because the competing demand do not allow satisfaction in every sector of the economy. So, it is a problem for us”.
FG To Partner With May & Baker On Production Of Vaccines
Also, FEC approved a joint venture agreement between the federal government and May and Baker plc to produce vaccines in Nigeria from 2017 to 2021.
According to the agreement, the federal government will own 49 per cent of the joint venture, while May and Baker will own 51 per cent.
This was disclosed by the minister of health, Isaac Adewole, after FEC meeting presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The board of the company will comprise seven people, four from May and Baker and three from the federal government.
He said the federal government is using existing facility at the Federal Vaccine Production Lab, Lagos, as their equity.
This, he said, has been estimated by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to cost about N1.27 billion, while May and Baker will put in about N1.3 billion in keeping with the 51-49 per cent equity participation.
He recalled that between 1940-1991, Nigeria was not only producing vaccines for diseases such as smallpox, yellow fever and anti-rabbis vaccines but also exported same to Cameroon, Central African Republic and a few other countries.
Adewole decried that in 1991 the Vaccine Production laboratory stopped production ostensibly because government wanted to reactivate and upgrade the facility which did not take place till today.
He said, “FEC approved a joint venture agreement between the federal government and May & Baker plc to produce vaccines from 2017-2021. Federal government will own 49 per cent of the joint venture, while May and Baker will own 51 per cent.
“What council did today was to put life into this joint venture agreement that proposes to establish a company called bio-vaccines LTD which will be jointly owned by federal government of Nigeria and May and Baker Plc.
“The board of the company will comprise seven people, four from May and Baker and three from federal government. The equity participation will be 51 per cent May and Baker and 49 per cent federal government.
“The company between 2017 and 2021 will produce basic vaccines that we need. We have considered vaccines as a security issue. It is not only health but we need to consider the security of all Nigerians, particularly our children.
“So, with this agreement we will be able to produce those command vaccines and from 2021 and beyond every other vaccines that are necessary will also be out on board for administration to Nigerians. We are quite happy that today it has taken place and we believe that Nigeria has started a journey to vaccines security”.
PMB Recovering Very Well – FG
Meanwhile, the federal government has said President Muhammadu Buhari is responding promptly to treatment as he is recovering very well. The Federal government’s disclosure is coming amidst reports that the president has recovered and may soon return to Nigeria.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed who made the disclosure on behalf of the federal government said “The president is faring very well. The president is in competent hands; no cause for alarm” when he responded to question about the progress on President Buharis health.