House Probes Ministry, Julius Berger over Slow Pace of Work on Roads

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Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja

House of Representatives has ordered investigation over the slow pace of work on N150 billion Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway as well as the 2nd Niger Bridge.

The resolution was sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent National Importance titled: ‘House Mandates Committee on Works to Investigate Julius Berger, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, others over Contract Monopoly,’ moved by Hon. Chudi Momah at the resumption of plenary yesterday.

Presenting the motion, Momah noted that there’s evidence of slow pace of work on these three critical projects, which had resulted in traffic congestion, fatal accidents being recorded daily and a downturn in the economy of the states involved in these projects.

He said the use of direct procurement in awarding these projects as against the opening competitive bidding in section 24 of the Public Procurement Act has deprived Nigerians of transparency, due process and potential to save money.

Momah expressed disappointment at slow pace of work on the projects despite the prompt release of funds by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

According to him, “These critical projects were designated to be funded under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) domiciled at NSIA so as to ensure proper and prompt funding. As of December 2019, NSIA has released the following amounts: N19,520,949,317.16 to Section 1 of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; N80,242,079,039.46 to the 2nd Niger Bridge; N50,856,044,301.27 to Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road, totalling a sum of N150,619,072,657.89.”

The lawmaker added that there’s also a potential conflict of interest in Julius Berger’s involvement in the 2nd Niger Bridge, saying the 2nd Niger Bridge is made up of three sections; Phase 1 is the Bridge 2, Phase 2a is Benin to Asaba Expressway, Phase 2b is Onitsha to Enugu Expressway; Phase 1 of the job was to be awarded as Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer basis under PPP scheme, and Phase 2a and 2b were to be awarded as traditional contract.

“The same job has now been awarded to Julius Berger for N206 billion as against the cost of N118 billion valued by BPP. Julius Berger is involved in all these three critical projects and other major road projects under Sukuk. All these projects are lagging behind schedule, which brings to fore Julius Berger’s capacity to handle the projects simultaneously,” he said.

He added that a Swiss challenge bid process ought to be adopted to avoid a situation of potential conflict of interest.

The House therefore mandated its committee on works to “investigate the level of work done on Lagos-lbadan Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway and 2nd Niger Bridge in order to determine if the amount disbursed so far has a commensurate value with the job done till date.”

The committee is expected to report their findings and recommendations back to the House in four weeks.