Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), on Thursday, dismissed the alleged payment of N151million to a firm for a road rehabilitated by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Osun State.
Fashola in his submission before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, probing the allegation, said the claim by the church was untrue.
He said the 15-kilometer road was awarded to Messrs Cartil Construction Nigeria Limited at the cost of N662.7million by the Federal Government in 2011.
He said the Ministry paid N99million as a 15% mobilization fee and N52million to the contractor after the firm achieved 26.2 percent of work done on the road in March and December 2011, respectively.
He insisted that the award of the contract and the subsequent payments to the contractor predated President Muhammdu Buhari’s administration.
He said the project was abandoned because there were times when no money was budgeted for the project.
“This is a petition, on the basis of what has been shown, that could have been resolved by a simple letter written on the Freedom of Information Act but in spite of the fact that you gave this out to Nigerians, the petitioner chose to come here, go to the pages of newspapers and essentially put our collective integrity as a ministry and as a government under needless scrutiny.
The facts have shown that there is no basis for this. The allegations as reported are essentially false.
They bother on defamation and I hope that the petitioner after listening to this will do the right thing and tender an apology. I think he got his facts all mixed up,” Fashola said.
In response to the petition, Fashola insisted that it is clear that contrary to the claims of the RCCG, “the contractor, Cartill Construction Nigeria Limited, did not make a claim for a refund for the cost expended on the rehabilitation of the road between 2016 and 2019.
“The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing did not make any payment to Cartill Construction Nigeria Limited as a refund for the construction of the road between 2016 and 2019.
“The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing did not certify any work done on the road by the Contractor between 2016 and 2019.
“The two payments made to Cartill Construction Nigeria Limited were made on 31 March 2011 and 29 December 2011 respectively, four (4) years before the commencement of this Administration in 2015.
The road in question is not a Federal Road under the Federal Highways Act.
The road is a state road under the constitutional and administrative jurisdiction of the Osun State Government.
The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing did not consider or grant approval for anyone to intervene on the road.
The petitioner, RCCG, did not seek or obtain the approval of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing prior to or during the rehabilitation of the Road.
As at 2010 when the contract for the road was awarded by the Federal Government, it was initiated as Parliamentary Constituency Project and domiciled in the budget of the Ministry, hence the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
“The Federal Government via the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing is not liable to make any refund to anyone in respect of the Road which is the statutory responsibility of the Osun State Government.
“The Legal Department of the Ministry is in the process of commencing legal actions against the Contractor for breach of the agreed terms of contract between it and the Ministry.”
The Minister, therefore, urged the Committee to hold that: “The Ministry has acted at all material times in accordance with and in consonance with its statutory mandate and is not liable to the Petitioner or any other party in the circumstances of this petition.
“There is no proof to support the position that an unjust claim was made by the Contractor or paid by the Ministry between 2016 and 2019.
“The payments made to the Contractor were made in 2011 in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act on mobilization fee not exceeding 15% of the contract sum
“There is no basis for this petition by way of facts or evidence, and a request made to the Ministry by the Petitioner under the Freedom of Information Act would have avoided the cost of this hearing and saved taxpayers’ funds.
However, the RCCG represented by Pastor Niyi Adebanjo apologized to Fashola and the Ministry of Works and Housing for not following due process in rehabilitating the road and failure to seek clarification from the Ministry before writing a petition to the Senate on the matter.
Adebanjo, however, insisted that the firm must be made to refund any money it has collected from the Federal Government on the said road project.
Adebanjo said: “I like to state very clearly that the core of this petition is not against the Ministry of Works and Housing.
“The basis for this petition is to call Nigerians to the corruption that is going on especially on road construction in this country.
“When Pastor E.A. Adeboye intervened, it was because his people called him. That road became a den of thieves and kidnappers. And when he was summoned, of course, we have a part to apologize for, for not going through the proper procedure for the intervention.
“But the point being made is that Cartil Construction Nigeria Limited should be made to refund (money paid to it).
“We did a little to resolve this thing within the constituency itself, unfortunately, we did not go further because of pieces of information that got to us.
“And on the basis of that, we felt, erroneously though, that the best place for the society to hear us is here and that is why we came to this honorable Senate.
“Now as to whether certain funds were released after 2011, we do not have claims. What we got to know was that certain steps were taken.
“I would like to say with due respect to the Minister, in view of what we have heard today, that steps are being taken to deal with construction companies in this country that through the back door deny this nation resources that should be made available to do great things that will benefit the common man.”
He added: “There is no doubting the fact that the Ministry of Works deserves an apology from us and because the whole world is listening to us, I tender that apology unreservedly before this Senate Committee.
However, I am saying that those things he pointed out we agree on point-blank that it was our mission and it is not going to reoccur on our future dealings on our interventions any moment we decide to do it.
So, Honourable Minister, on behalf of Pastor E.A. Adeboye, I like to apologize to you for whatever this has brought to the government under your watch.
However, that apology does not in any way remove the fact which is the core of this petition that Cartil Construction Nigeria Limited should be made to refund every single kobo collected.”