N5.2 billion scam: Electricity agency head, six others award N843million contract to selves, says BPE

An assistant procurement officer with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Nasir Bello, yesterday told an Abuja High Court that the Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Samuel Ibi Gekpe, and six other senior officials abused some provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007 to enable them award electricity contracts to companies belonging to them.

The other accused persons include Abdullahi Aliyu, Simon Kirdi Nanle, Lawrence Kayode Orekoya, Abdulsamad Garba Jahun and Kayode Oyedeji. 

Mr Bello, who is standing trial in a N5.2billion scam allegedly committed by the seven officials, disclosed this to the court presided over by Justice Adebunkola Banjoko,  while being led in evidence by Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Kemi Pinheiro. 

Mr Bello was cross-examined by counsels to the seven accused persons, including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria  (SAN),  Paul Erokoro, Nelson Uzuegbo, Biodun Akin Aina and others.

At the resumed hearing of the case, Mr Bello said that  based on a procurement audit report, REA  did not carry out a tendering and evaluation process for both the grid and solar contracts, rather contractors were selected at random from a list prepared by the officials and contracts awarded to them. 

According to him, none of the companies awarded the contracts were on the list of companies previously pre-qualified and forwarded by the ministry, while the advertisements inviting qualified contractors to tender for the projects were not published in any of the national dailies as required by the procurement law.

He disclosed that a selective tendering process was unilaterally adopted by the accused persons for the procurement, though companies were pre-qualified based on the six geo-political zones, pointing out that REA failed to provide the criteria for selection and scores earned by the bidders at the end of the pre-qualification exercise, as stipulated in the law.

Mr Bello further revealed that contractors were paid 100 percent  of the contract sum in two installments of 15 percent and 85 percent respectively, though most of the companies provided advance payment guarantee.

Similarly, he drew attention to reports that one Uduak Israel Akpan signed the contract documents and collected cheques on behalf of nine companies that benefited from the award of contracts, pointing out that the affected companies have their offices in Asaba, Delta State with the same telephone number on their letterheads, indicating that they belong to the same syndicate.

The nine companies were awarded a total of 21 of the 45 contracts valued at about N842.3million out of the total contract sum of over N1.6billion. 

The trial continues Thursday.  

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