Petition Over Ife-Ifewara Road: Redeemed Church Apologises To Works & Housing Ministry

 

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Thursday, 15 April, 2021 in Abuja tendered an “unreserved apology” to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing over its allegation of “false claims on the rehabilitation of Ife-Afewara Road in Osun State” saying it was based on a false premise.

The RCCG, in a petition to the Senate, had claimed that it had good reason to believe that the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing had paid N151.51 million to Messrs. Cartill Construzioni Nigeria Limited for the rehabilitation of Ife-Ifewara Road, a work which, according to the petitioner, was indeed carried out by the Church.

In the petition dated 24th March, 2021, Secretary to the General Overseer of the RCCG, Pastor Niyi Adebanjo, claimed that the Church, after carrying out the rehabilitation of the road, learnt that the aforementioned company, which was awarded the contract since 2010 and had abandoned the work for over six years, had been paid by the Ministry for the work praying that the Money be retrieved from the company.

But responding to the allegation at a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, said there was no proof to support the position of the petitioner that an unjust claim was made by Contractor or paid by the Ministry between 2016 and 2019. 

Fashola, who explained that the road in question was a State Road, added that the contract for its rehabilitation was awarded by the Federal Government in 2010 as a Parliamentary Constituency Project and domiciled in the budget of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, hence the intervention by the Ministry.

Clarifying that both the award of the contract and payment of the said contract sum were made between 2010 and 2011, four years before the Buhari Administration came to being, the Minister explained further that the contract was awarded on December 21, 2010 to the contractor in the sum of N662, 760,771.75 with a commencement date of March 7, 2011 and completion date of November 7, 2011.

On the sum of N151.51 million paid to the Contractor, he explained that the payment made in two tranches, was statutorily made adding that while the first payment of N99,414,115.76, made on March 31, 2011, represented 15 percent of contract sum, the second payment of N52,094,785., made on December 29, 2011, was based on submission of an Interim Statement.

Fashola said the contractor achieved only 26.21 percent project completion before abandoning the project adding that the contract was as a result recommended for termination “for breach of contract” after warning letters were served on the Contractor first on March 5, 2014 and final warning on June 15, 2015.

Noting that before any payment was made to any contractor, there has to be actual work done, measured and certified and recommended for consideration for approval for payment, Fashola, however, added that since the contract awarded to Messrs. Cartill had not been formally terminated, there has been budgetary provision for the road since 2010, except in years when it had zero budgeting, but the budgeted sum has never been processed since 2011 following the dismal performance of the Contractor.

The Minister, who hinted on plans by the Ministry to sanction recalcitrant contractors by opening a “black book” for them based on appropriate legal advice, declared, “It is clear that contrary to the claims of RCCG, the Contractor, Cartill Nigeria Limited, did not make a claim for a refund for the cost expended on the rehabilitation of the road between 2016 and 2019”, adding that the Ministry also did not make any such payment to the Contractor.

“The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing did not certify any work done on the road by the Contractor between 2016 and 2019”, he said reiterating that the two payments made to the Contractor were made in March and December 2011 respectively, “four years before the commencement of this Administration in 2014”.

Maintaining that the Ministry did not consider or grant approval for anyone to intervene on the road, Fashola, who said the RCCG did not seek or obtain such approval further declared, “the federal Ministry of Works and Housing is not liable to make any refund to anyone in respect of the Road which is the statutory responsibility of the Osun State Government”.

The Minister explained further that although the RCCG could be commended for the work done, there are procedures and processes for such interventions be they on Federal or State Roads, adding that the Petitioner could have sought clarification either from the Ministry of any other relevant agencies of government instead of petitioning the Senate.

The Petitioner, Pastor Adebanjo, in his response expressed deep regrets for taking the matter to the Senate saying it was not, however, meant to embarrass the Minister or his Ministry but in the spirit of fighting corruption by ensuring that the money paid to the contractor was retrieved and paid to the federal Government coffers.

However, on realizing that the claims he made in his petition had no factual proof and as noted by one of the Senate Committee members who advised that he should do the needful on account of available evidence, Adebanjo said, “For the fact that the Ministry of Works deserves an apology and because the whole world is listening to us, I tender that apology unreservedly before this Senate Committee”.

In his submissions, the Chairman of the Committee commended the Minister for coming personally, “as always when we invite you” to respond to the petition and throwing more light on the whole issue adding that other officials of Government should borrow a leaf from him. 

Other members of the Committee, who spoke, also commended the Minister for his diligence and commitment to every assignment pertaining to his responsibilities. They also noted with satisfaction that there was move by the Ministry to bring recalcitrant contractors to book.

Also accompanying the Minister to the hearing were some Directors, Special Advisers and other top officials of the Ministry.

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