Thursday, August 30, 2007
No tenders for Madam Speaker's contracts
A THISDAY Investigation
Facts emerged last night in Abuja that the National Assembly did not openly call for tenders before awarding the controversial N628 million contract for the renovation of the official residences of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh and her deputy, Alhaji Bab-angida Nguroje.
THISDAY also learnt that the bidding process did not follow due process as none of the jobs were advertised while some of the companies that submitted bids for the contract were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The National Assembly management, however, claimed the tenders were pasted on the Notice Board of the National Assembly.
And in a bid to forestall a division among the South-west lawmakers and save Etteh’s job, the leadership of the South West Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its members in the House of Representatives yesterday met for four hours at Perniel Apartments in Maitama, Abuja where they resolved to stand behind Etteh.
It was also confirmed last night that two former Speakers of the House, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba and Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, in their resolve to find a lasting solution to the problem, held a meeting in Abuja with key lawmakers believed to be spearheading the move to unseat Etteh.
THISDAY checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Abuja showed that one of the companies that got the contract for the furnishing of one of the residences was registered in 2000 in the name of a former member of the House of Representatives.
The Company, VICTOGENVEL Nigeria Limited, with registration No 381308 was registered on November 23, 2000 with a share capital of 100,000.
Its registered office and address of directors are both located at 38 Ndidem Usang Uso Road Calabar, Cross River State.
It was discovered that all the directors of the company including the former member of the House bear the same family name.
But the address of an Abuja office situated in Wuse Market Extension was used to execute the contract.
The company got the N71, 895,000million contract for the furnishing of the Speaker’s official residence within the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja.
The letter of award was dated 30th July 2007 and signed by one Mansur S. Jarkasa for the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Nasir Arab.
For the furnishing and renovation of the Deputy Speaker’s official residence, Messrs Lee Development Nigeria Limited with registration Number 310156 and office address at Suite 30, Neighbourhood Centre, Area 3, Garki, Abuja got the plum job. The letter signed by Jarkasa on behalf of the clerk for Lee Development Nigeria Limited read, “The total sum is N90, 296, 225, 25 (ninety Million two hundred and ninety-six thousand two hundred and twenty five kobo) only with eight weeks execution period from the date of receipt of this award.”
The company was incorporated on March 20, 1997 and gave its registered address as Plot D6, Federal Housing Estate, Karu, Abuja. The company directors also have the same address as that of the office.
Since its completion by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) two years ago, the Deputy Speaker’s residence remained uninhabited.
The former Deputy Speaker, Chief Austin Opara, did move in but preferred his house in Apo village which he bought when the Federal Government decided to sell the Apo Legislative quarters to the lawmakers.
For the renovation of the Speaker’s House proper, Messer’s Stateco Nigeria limited, registered with the CAC on the 24th of April 1976 with registration no 16957 and a share capital of 100,000 got the job at the cost of N238,852,192 as against the N242,478,279 it quoted and a completion period of six weeks.
The company with office address at No 17 Nnamdi Azikiwe Road, Minna, was given two months to complete the job and a required payment of 80 per cent
From the list, other companies that allegedly quoted for the job are M/S Niger Investment and Construction Company Nigeria Limited which gave the price of N258, 753,129million and M/S Mutunshi Nigeria limited that quoted N262, 484,855.
THISDAY, however, could not trace any of the two companies at the CAC.
Efforts by our correspondent to get the Clerk of the National Assembly to react to the development proved abortive.
It was learnt that the Clerk was too busy attending a crucial meeting.
His Special Assistant, Mallam Umaru Mohammed, was equally said to be busy when THISDAY visited his office.
But it was gathered that during the meetings on the renovation plan and as deliberations on the request of Etteh and Nguroje for the repair of their official residences progressed, the Clerk had sought to know whether there were enough funds to cater for the projects.
The Director of Finance and Supplies in the National Assembly apart from confirming the availability of funds was said to have assured of timely payment to the contractors but “provided that the Estate and Works Department issued job certification.”
FCDA had refused to furnish the official residences of Etteh and Nguroje because officials of the authority discovered there was no provision for it in FCDA’s budget.
Under the law, FCDA is the owner of the National Assembly Principal Officers Houses and was supposed to renovate the houses but the authority told the leadership of the National Assembly that there was no fund for the project and as such advised the assembly to find other means of executing the project.
In a reply to the National Assembly’s request for the furnishing of the houses, FCDA’s Executive Secretary, Alhaji Mohammed Sanni, had said there was no provision for such in the authority’s budget.
Most of the furniture, fittings and other items in the Speaker’s residence had been monetised and bought by the former Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari.
The Speaker’s residence has four blocks of houses comprising the main building and three chalets.
THISDAY confirmed that Julius Berger was supposed to do the job initially.
The construction company gave a bill of over N600 million for just the Speaker’s residence.
This, it was gathered, was beyond the FCDA as the amount quoted was so much that FCDA had in an attachment to the letter explaining the lack of funds quoted a February 16, 2006 document on the amount spent on the renovation of the Senate President’s official residence last year. N450 million was spent on that contract.
At the meeting chaired by PDP National Vice Chairman (South West), Senator Yinka Omilani, the lawmakers were reminded that Etteh remained their choice as Speaker.
According to Omilani, “the South-west meeting resolved that the zone does not have any other candidate for the position of Speaker as Chief (Mrs) Foluke Etteh is eminently qualified and competent to hold the position which has been zoned to the South-west.”
Omilani said further that “after a thorough evaluation of the available facts on the issues raised by some members of the House, the meeting expressed its implicit confidence in the leadership of the House and noted that the issues at stake are more political than the touted award of contract.”
THISDAY, however, learnt that Hon. Wole Oke from Osun State like Etteh was taken up by the South-west PDP leadership over his alleged role in the crisis rocking the House.
He was said to have been thoroughly drilled by the leadership after the spate of accusations against him.
But sources said Oke who is the Chairman, House Com-mittee on Defence, denied being part of those rooting for Etteh’s ouster.
Out of the three South-west lawmakers being fingered as part of the group planning to effect Etteh’s impeachment, namely Oke, Dave Salako and Kayode Amusan both from Ogun State, only Oke was present at the meeting. Salako was said to have travelled to the United States.
Etteh was said to have attended the meeting for only 15 minutes. She reportedly left shortly after exchanging banters with the leaders and her colleagues in the House.
The two former Speakers also met with Etteh on Tuesday night where the Osun lawmaker was also taken up on the controversial renovation contract.
The concern of Masari and Na’Abba, it was learnt, is the possible ripple effect of any negative action on Etteh and the credibility question that may arise thereafter.
THISDAY gathered last night that the duo had been pressing it on the Northern lawmakers to soft pedal on the matter and follow the party position, which is against Etteh’s impeachment.
Lawan last night confirmed that the two former Speakers met with some of them.
He said the meting centred on the crisis in the House and how it could be resolved without tarnishing the integrity of the House.
But he insisted that the public that voted the lawmakers would want an investigation conducted into the whole contract affair.
"Yes, I can tell you that there was a meeting last night. It is all about settling the crisis. But we were elected by the people and must listen to them. The meeting may not have much impact. I am not alone in this fight. A moral burden is on all of us, " he told THISDAY over the telephone.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress (AC) has warned PDP against sweeping the allegations against the Speaker of the House under the carpet.
In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said reports that PDP planned to treat the issue as another ‘family affair’ by playing down the scandal and ensuring a soft landing for the Speaker would spell more doom for the PDP.
AC also condemned the Speaker for her seeming non-chalance since the scandal broke out, saying such attitude confirmed its (AC) earlier doubt about Etteh’s competence to preside over the affairs of the House.
“Mrs. Etteh is not the Speaker of PDP’s House of Representatives but that of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, with responsibility to all Nigerians. It is therefore wrong for the PDP to embark on the self-destructive path of branding this incredible scandal as a ‘PDP family affair’ as a means of covering it up,” it said.