New Telegraph

February 29, 2024

Wike opens can of worms on contract racketeering

New sheriff

The appointment of the former Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) took many Nigerians by surprise. Apart from the controversies surrounding his decision to serve in an administration dominated by his political rivals, Wike was the last person Nigerians expected to take up the position ceded to people from a particular region of the country.
But quite typical of him, Wike wasted no time before he seized the opportunity to assert himself and fit properly into the role. From his inaugural chat with the media on his first day at work, he left no one in doubt that he was bringing his fire brand tactics to the new job.
Before his assumption of office on August 21, 2023, the Federal Capital Territory Administration ( FCTA) had been led by personalities who hardly made headlines. With the exception of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, most of his predecessors were people who spoke very little, despised drama and operated in the shadows. As a result, much of the activities of the office were shrouded in secrecy and many residents could only guess what was happening.
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), the agency in charge of executing contracts in the FCT sold a dummy to the public that “paucity of funds” and “piecemeal” release of those funds were the key factors militating against rapid development of the territory.
Each time there was need for the FCDA to explain why there were so many abandoned projects across the length and breath of the nation’s capital, they had always rolled out those excuses.
However, the bubble bursted right from the week after Wike resumed office and started receiving briefs from the heads of the various Departments and Agencies. As someone not used to holding back his thoughts and feelings, Wike began to speak to the gaps in the reports.

N85bn WASA housing project.
The first open reaction to the issues was when the Minister in the company of the Minister of State, Dr Mariya Mahmoud and top management staff, visited a mass housing infrastructure development project, at Wasa. The minister literally flared up on learning about the huge cost of the project and the fact that the government was getting little or nothing from it.
Inside Abuja observed that Wike did not only berate officials of the Federal Capital Administration ( FCTA) for poor negotiation and performance but frowned at the lack of transparency in the project
He stated that apart from the over bloated figures, those who negotiated the contract have given out the benefits of the that should have accrued to government to the private investors.
“We are not impressed with the arrangement made by the FCT. Government cannot just cough out N85 billion in providing infrastructure and then give land out to private developers who will build and sell.
“This kind of arrangement is not commendable at all at all. We think that the government must also participate, having provided the land and infrastructure.
“If we are partnering with private individuals or developers, the common sense is that you provide the land, provide infrastructure and they come and develop.
“Then government for example can take 10 per cent then the developers take 90 per cent, depending on the value,” he said.
Wike said that under such arrangements, the government would be able to determine the price the houses would be sold to the masses, saying that the masses cannot not afford N7 million for a house.

Usuma dam project
More shocking was the scam unearthed when the Minister and his team visited the Lower Usuma Dam project in Bwari Area Council.
It was gathered that the project had become a white elephant because of the volume of variations on the contract.
Wike said it was unfortunate that government officials were engaging in contract variations, without concrete plans for the execution of the project.
While assuring that the FCTA is going to overhaul the entire system, the Minister disclosed plans to prioritise and fund ten projects, as part of the measures to check the menace of abandoned and uncompleted projects in the territory.

Overhaul
“We are going to overhaul the entire system. I have never seen a thing like this before in my life. What you see in FCDA contract variation from N10bn to N120bn, from N50bn to N200bn. It is alarming and I am not going to accept it.
“It is unfortunate that while we went to the Gurara road, it was very embarrassing. This is not what we are going to take. The job was awarded in 2017 at the cost of N20bn, in 2020 they revised the contract sum to N50bn.
“As I speak to you, we have paid almost N50bn, what is outstanding from what the man in charge has said is N900m, and now the N900m will not be enough to complete the job that they have done about 90percent and thereby we move to another variation. This is what we are not going to accept,” he said.

$800m garnishee order
Another unfortunate scenario that paints a gloomy picture of the perceived corruption in the system was the recent garnishee order of $800 million dollars slammed on the FCTA by a High Court of Justice.
Inside Abuja’s investigation showed that the FCTA has been loosing its legal battles in the courts, due to alleged sabotage by its legal representatives.
According to our findings, the $800 million garnishee order is just but a fraction of what the administration has been loosing, due to negligence of members of its legal team at various courts.
All these got to the public glare because a new sheriff is in town and has been crying out aloud to expose the disgusting corrupt tendencies in the system.
“I must also address the recent garnishee order to the sum of over $800 million, which was particularly embarrassing incident. I am determined to get to the bottom of this matter and ensure that such situations do not recur. Transparency and accountability will be the hallmarks of our administration.
“We are coming out to tell the people that see what is on the ground, see what we have seen. I was telling the permanent secretary this morning, how can there be a garnishee order of $800m against the FCTA.
“How do you survive it? Who are those responsible for this? That there are no projects in the territory, everything has been abandoned. There is a garnishee order of $800m. Do you know what we are talking about? How do we survive it? Go and see what happened. Garnishee orders here and there,” Wike said.

Public alert
All these got to the public glare because a new sheriff is in town and has been crying out aloud to expose the disgusting corrupt tendencies in the system.
A public Affairs analyst who pleaded anonymity, said the civil servants, especially those in Engineering and procurement departments of both FCTA and FCDA, have been using the infamous technique of contract variations to rip government off.
The analyst who is also resident in Abuja, said that most times, the contractors claim that the rise in the value of dollars against the naira affects procurement. They, in collaboration with some key Administration officials, have been taking undue advantage of the undulating foreign exchange system to dupe the government. According to him, the contract variation syndicate have collaborators at the National Assembly who usually pads the budget at their end for mutual pecuniary benefits.
It is the hope of well meaning Nigerians that the new minister will go beyond the threats and ensure that those found wanting were prosecuted for their crimes.

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