By Deji Elumoye
The Senate on Tuesday invited the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and her Works and Housing counterpart, Babatunde Fashola, to explain the variation in the cost of major federal highways being executed through the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
Also invited to appear before the Senate Committee on Finance in the next two weeks are the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; the Managing Director of the NSIA, Uche Orji; and the contractors handling the projects.
Some of the projects tagged Legacy Projects include Lagos – Ibadan Express Way, Second Niger Bridge and Abuja – Kano Expressway, THISDAY checks revealed, are being funded through tripartite agreement between the Ministries of Finance, Works and the NSIA.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Olamilekan Adeola, who extended the invitation to the ministers and others at an interactive session with the MD of NSIA, said the meeting was necessary so as to clear grey areas as regards funding the road projects as well as variation in the cost of the projects.
He said: “On the issue of funding, by virtue of the information at my disposal and by what the Finance Minister made me to understand, is that you are playing critical roles by providing funds for the legacy projects. As of today, two years down the line, only $300 million is in the books as having been spent on the projects, this gives cause for concern.
“We believe that funding is critical to these projects. If the funding is not there, there is no way we can achieve those timeframe that you have set out for the completion of the projects.
“On that note, we would be bringing on board the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Works and Housing, the Managing Director of the NSIA, the Accountant General of the Federation, and the contractors who should be invited by the Minister of Works.
“I know there are variations already but we want to know the value and the scope of works that the variation covers; we want to know it because we don’t have it. That is why we want to know the actual value for the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, for the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano and for the Second Niger bridge.”
Earlier in his submission, the Managing Director of NSIA, Uche Orji, told the lawmakers that his agency has no details of the cost of some of projects.
Orji, in response to a question on the actual cost of the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, said only the Ministries of Works and Finance could provide the information needed by the senators, adding that some of the projects predated his agency.
He said: “Everyday we argue out the issue of variation because any slight change affects my budget because I have a number that I’m working towards. Any change in the scope of work is a problem to us. I can’t answer some of the questions that borders on variation and events that took place before I took over. We need to sit down with the active players in the historical contracts award preceding our entrance.”