Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) hinted of its intention to approach the National Assembly with a bill seeking a new legislation against corrupt behaviours by political office holders. The move, according to acting chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, will serve as a deterrent to successive governments which abandon projects into which state funds have been invested.
Citing media reports that the Niger Delta Ministry has over 90 per cent of its projects in the region abandoned, Magu expressed regret that Nigeria is littered with abandoned projects. The EFCC boss noted that the commission was ready to wrestle the challenges of poorly conceived and politically motivated projects, lack of continuity in the execution of projects by successive governments and non-adherence to procurement and contractual agreements by parties.
It is unfortunate that many projects into which humongous sums of the country’s scare resources had been invested are abandoned in various stages of execution with most of them rotting away and over grown with weeds. These are projects that, if completed, would have added value to lives of the citizens especially the host communities.
Reasons adduced for project abandonment are legal impediments fund diversions, delay in disbursement of funds high prices of building materials high interest rate on loan corruption and poor locations as well as unclear exit strategy for some developers from the off-takers’ angle.
Some of the root causes of project abandonment in Nigeria are lack of well articulated visions and objectives lack of adequate planning for the project at inception inadequate budgetary allocation before projects are embarked upon ineffective legal system poor contract documentation, corruption and collusion. Lack of municipal services non-release of government white papers on investigations carried out on abandon of projects lack of continuity and absence of institutional’ long term strategic plans to address government’s ambiguity in contract documentations.
There is no doubt that the abandonment of projects brings adverse effect on the beauty of the nation’s environment, real properties and its values as well as the economy since some of the development projects provide the basic services that should meet the needs of the people.
The pervasive institutional mediocrity and poor coordination between government officials create loopholes which contractors capitalize on to frustrate projects, thus leading to abandonment. Contractors are allowed to draft contract agreements which, not unexpectedly, they do in their favour against the interest of government.
This newspaper is convinced that if the National Assembly acts precipitously on the bill, it may come up with an additional legislation to provide for fines and and after sanctions against contractors and ensure that issues of contract abandonment become history in Nigeria. Apart from the role played by corrupt government officials, it is also believed that the over N5 trillion worth of abandoned projects scattered all over the country are primarily as a result of contractors’ neglect.
Also in our opinion, the amendment to the Public Procurement Act by the National Assembly will help to a great extent in addressing issues of abandoned projects. An efective procurement process is very important because the procedure for awarding contracts hinge on the basic principles of procurement as well as tendering and selection of capable hands to execute the projects.
Without denying the fact that well-trained project managers should be used in project supervision, it is our considered view that the consequence of government agencies selecting contractors believed to be capable without transparent procedures in place can be counter productive. The procurement method, as well as tendering procedures, play important roles in ensuring that projects achieve their initial set objectives of cost, schedule and quality. Procurement issues should be prioritised during project implementation bearing in mind that lack of an effective procurement process could equally lead to failure.
Also, in our view, some relevant aspects of the legal system must be reviewed if the nation must address the loopholes of ex-parte orders used in frustrating litigation of offenders in breach of contract agreements, corruption and compromise. In the same vein, government at all levels should try as much as possible to speedily release administrative white papers on investigations carried out on abandoned projects with a view to sanctioning erring government officials and contractors. This will serve as a deterrent to others who may be tempted to act fraudulently. Anything short of this, in our view, will dash the country’s hope of achieving set goals in the infrastructure sector.
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