• Laments non-remittances to govt

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has indicated its readiness to open probes into the concession of government property to the tune of N2.7 billion, during the tenures of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, and former FCT Ministers Nasir El-Rufai, Aliyu Modibbo and Bala Mohammed.

The committee said despite the concession for commercialisation of assets such as the Eagle Square, International Conference Centre (ICC) and others, there have been no remittances to the government coffers since 2008.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi APC), speaking during a meeting on budget deliberations with the Minister of the FCT, Mr. Muhammad Musa Bello, and officials of the FCT Administration, yesterday, said a holistic probe would be conducted into the entire process. Melaye said the committee would invite all actors who were involved in the privatisation and commercialisation of the properties.

“It is worthy of note that these FCT owned companies received huge returns on investment without making returns to FCT Administration. The returns are in billions of Naira. They are spent and re-invested without appropriation. This is contrary to the principles of accountability and due process. The Committee is also worried about the revenue line charge on investment income. The actual performance on this charge has zero returns over the years,” Melaye said.

He described the processes as the failure of leadership and a national disaster, which must not be allowed to continue if the country would develop.

This Committee would expose all those involved, even when it amounts to exhuming corpses of those involved who are dead, “ Melaye added. The lawmaker gave further details of assets which were concessioner by the FCT, to include the Karu General Hospital which was initially a 222-bed facility.

“It is important to note that 40% of the Hospital is leased to Primus Super Specialty Hospital (an Indian Hospital) for management. The hospital commenced operation on 19th April 2017,” he said.

“Eagle Square and International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja were concessioned to the same company who had no evidence of previous facility management experience anywhere in the world, and without financial capacity to manage the facilities. This company had to fall back on FCTA to buy new equipment to kick-start its operations. It is worthy of note that the management of the two concessioned facilities makes millions of Naira on a monthly basis since the commencement of its operations,”

“Garki Hospital was concessioned to Nisa Premier Hospital in partnership with Nisa Premier Apeiron Consortium. It is pertinent to state that Garki Hospital was built to provide affordable healthcare for residents of Garki District. The aim of providing the facility was defeated as the management of the hospital now charges relatively very high fees from patients due to the concession of the hospital. The Committee frowns at this misdemeanour. As representatives of the people, we hold it as a responsibility to care and protect the people’s lives,”

Melaye queried why Garki hospital which is supposed to cater for the lower and middle-class resident of the FCT, would be concessioned.

“ Sheraton Hotel and Towers was incorporated on 16th January 1981 as a private liability company which later transformed into public liability company in 1990. The hotel was constructed by Government with a loan of about $300 million (Three Hundred Million Dollars) borrowed from a German Bank. The debt was eventually settled by Government because there was a sovereign guarantee on it,”

“The then Director-General of Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Mrs. Irene Chigbue, stated clearly during the Investigative Public Hearing of this committee in 2008 that government agencies were invited to subscribe to the ownership of the company in which Abuja Investment Limited was part of the subscribers,”

“It is important to note that 87% of the federal government shares of the hotel, that is 51% was sold to core investors while other shareholders’ shares remain unchanged.

It is worrisome to state that Sheraton Hotel and Towers was privatized for $34 million (Thirty-Four Million Dollars) only. The committee was reliably informed that the 51% of the shares of the hotel was valued and sold for $34 million. This means that the total value of the hotel is less than $68 million,”

“This figure is very ridiculous because the hotel was constructed at a period when the Naira was stronger than the dollar ($300m). Despite the hotel’s 20 years of operations (1982 -2002), the Return on Investment (ROI) was a negative quantity. Today, the facilities in the hotel are depreciating by the day. The hotel is not well managed with many of the rooms uninhabitable,”

“The sale of Sofitel International Hotel which is also known as NICON Luxury Hotel followed the same pattern as the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. The hotel was constructed in 1980. The federal government, through the ministry of finance, owns 92.5% of the shares, FCDA owns 4.64%, NICON Insurance owns 01%. The remaining shares were distributed accordingly,”

“ The committee noted as follows in the course of its findings: That about $130m was spent in building the hotel; that 90% of the shares were sold for only $50m as against $130m it took the government to build the hotel: and that 19 million Euro was used for the furnishing of the hotel, bringing the total estimated cost of the asset to $200 million,” Melaye said.

The minister urged the senate committee to correct all the wrongs that were made with the concessions in the past.