*House probes N280bn silos rusting away
James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and his finance counterpart, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, yesterday finally honoured the summon by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement which is probing the indiscriminate issuance of Certificate of No Objection by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).
The committee, Chaired by Hon. Oluwole Oke, is further investigating allegations of abuse, breach and violations of the public procurement Act of 2007 in the engagement of contractors for pre-shipment inspection and monitoring of crude oil and gas export from Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the House yesterday at plenary passed a resolution urging the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to suspend immediately, the alleged plans to concession existing silos to private operators.
It further mandated the Committee on Agricultural Production and Services to undertake an assessment of all the silos under construction in a bid to determine their state and come up with workable plans on how they could be completed and put into immediate use.
It followed a motion moved by Hon. Solomon Ahwinahwi on the need to investigate the rusting away of 33 Silos worth N280 billion.
Nevertheless, both ministers had been invited to say what they knew as it relates to their respective ministries. But both had never showed up since the hearing commenced until yesterday.
But not much was achieved even with their appearance before the committee.
Fashola had told the committee that the only letter he received from the committee dated May 24 didnâ€™t specify particular areas of procurement infractions as it related to his ministry and which he should have responded to in his submissions.
He also told the committee that since the allegations bordered on indiscriminate issuance of Certificate of No Objection by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), he did not think heâ€™s in a position to answer but rather the BPP or relevant procurement officers and unit within his ministry.
Aligning with the ministerâ€™s argument, the committee commended Fashola for honouring the committeeâ€™s invitation and discharged him.
Also, Adeosun who was at the National Assembly as at 11a.m, had informed the committee that she had a meeting with acting President Yemi Osinbajo at noon.
After issuing apologies for being unable to appear at the hearing at the early stage, she submitted responses to the committeeâ€™s queries on the subject matter on oath- the document was also adopted by the committee.
Though some members had pressed the minister to make further submissions personally, her planned engagement with Osinbajo could not allow her.
She was however, commended by the committee for turning up at least while a new date for her appearance was slated for Thursday.
Nevertheless, House noted that close to eight years now, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) had been constructing 33 grain silos spread across the country, which cost so far was valued at N280 billion, with only three reported to have been completed while others are nearing 85 per cent completion.
The silos, located in Abuja, Ado Ekiti, Ilesa, Akure, Okigwe, Igbariam, Saki, Dankande, and Ikenne, comprised 10 silos with 100,000 metric tons storage capacity and 23 with a storage capacity of 23 metric tons, out of which 30 are now in deplorable state of rusting and decaying.
The House further expressed concern that the laudable idea which was conceived by the late President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua, in 2009 to serve as strategic grain reserve where excess harvest of grains like rice, beans, maize, millet, soya and sorghum among others would be stored, so as to reduce post-harvest wastes and preserve surplus harvest appeared to have been abandoned and the silos are now being inhabited by reptiles.
The committee is expected to report back within eight weeks for further legislative action.
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