‘Why Domestic Debts Accumulated’

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James Emejo in Abuja 

The Chairman of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Mr. Emeka Obegolu, has said the inability of government and contractors to agree on how to resolve disputes arising from contract execution could be blamed for the rising domestic debts in the country.

The Debt Management Office (DMO) recently put Nigeria’s aggregate public debt at N24.387 trillion ($79.437 billion) as at December 31, 2018.

The domestic component stood at N16.627.84 trillion ($56bn) while the external debt stood at N7.759.23 trillion ($22bn),

However, speaking ahead of a workshop on government contracts dispute resolution scheduled to hold in Abuja, from May 7-8, 2018, organised by the Dispute Resolution Center of ACCI (DRC-ACCI), he stated that most of the problems with contractors would be resolved if they are made to come to terms with government.

Obegolu, said incidents of abandoned projects in most states were as a result of disputes arising from contract execution and, “that is why we have abandoned projects littering the space called Nigeria.”

He added during the workshop, federal government contractors and MDAs would to come together and agree on how to address disputes arising from government contracts execution.

He said: “And we believe if we can do this, 20 per cent of the problems would have been solved because contractors depend on banks to sponsor and fund their projects and when they get these loans, government is not willing to pay within the agreement timelines. 

“For instance, if government says submit your certificate, we will pay you within two weeks, which is a law- the public procurement Act stipulates timelines but many ministries do not honour those timelines. And we think we must change in our interest.”

He also disclosed that about N500 million had been realised by the DRC through adjudication or mediation among aggrieved businesses.

The ACCI chairman said: “What we are doing right now is awareness creation to invite the general public to understand that the center provides an effective and efficient procedure for the resolution of disputes.

“We invite SMEs to take their disputes away from security agencies and bring their disputes to the centre.”

Vice President, Legal, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Mr. Bukhari Bello, said Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has continued to provide assurance and gain traction as a veritable instrument for preventing and resolving contractual disputes. 

He said with the public sector being a major source of local and international business opportunities and with its capital and recurrent overhead budget rising annually running into trillions of naira, there is need for continuous efforts in providing innovative means of enhancing emerging opportunities.

According to him, the aim of the workshop would be to interrogate ADR as an instrument in resolving government contractual disputes among other things.

He said: “In order for the objective upon which the spirit of the Public Procurement Act is based to be achieved and for businesses to thrive and sustain growth, both Parties need to look closer at ADR’s potentials as a tool for resolving contractual disputes, its benefits should be supported by practitioners and policy makers.”