The sins that kicked Bi-Courtney out — Works Minister

Traffic gridlock used to illustrate the story
Traffic gridlock used to illustrate the story

The minister said for three years, Bi-Courtney made no attempt to comply with a design it created for itself

For the three years it held on to the Lagos-Ibadan road contract, the infrastructure management consortium, Bi-Courtney, disgraced out of the job this week, complied with none of the stipulations it pledged to keep, Works Minister, Mike Onolememen, told lawmakers on Thursday.

The firm, owned by businessman and lawyer, Wale Babalakin, breached timelines for submission of vital records and documents, failed to secure a financial close, and showed no commitment to change even with reschedules, the minister said.

The defaults were clear with the over 135 km stretch of expressway remaining unfixed three years after the company won a lavish concession contract.

Mr. Babalakin has been named in large scale fraud involving jailed former governor of Delta state, James Ibori, and federal charges were filed against him Wednesday, according to officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Investigators say Mr. Babalakin, who is the current Pro-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri; and whose firm, Bi-Courtney, runs the MMA2 Lagos Airport terminal as part of a public private partnership with the Federal Government, helped fritter huge sums into foreign accounts on behalf of Mr. Ibori.

Mr. Babalakin has not responded formally to news of the charges. But the case has complicated an unusually fast-paced turn of events coming within a week for the businessman.

Amongst a string of government works his company got, the Lagos-Ibadan road represented the biggest haul and in any case, the most controversial.

A Build, Operate and Transfer project at the cost of N86.5 billion, it entitled the firm to the administration and tolling it for 25 years.

The minister, Mr. Onolememen, said the annulment of the contract, announced by the federal government on Monday, came only after Bi-Courtney’s attention had repeatedly been drawn to violations it engineered, and the company made no effort at addressing them.

“The first time government contemplated terminating the contract” the minister said, “we wrote them a letter listing the breaches, but they neglected and there was no improvement.”

The remarks, coming from the most notable government personality involved with the contract, shed light into the behind-the scenes of the deal’s life-span, which for many months, remained the subject of speculations.

Mr. Onolememen spoke at a budget defense session before the House of Representatives Committee on Works on Thursday.

While the contract agreement- reviewed in September in an exclusive report by PREMIUM TIMES- allowed Bi-Courtney 180 days to secure funds for the job, the firm not only defaulted, but also failed to meet with a 60-day extension, the minister said.

Bi-Courtney also failed to submit to the federal government a performance bond as required by the agreement; and also failed to do same with a construction agreement-meant to be entered with a construction company hired to execute the road building.

Without actual construction, the company complied with no “modicum” of the job design, which was carried out by the firm itself, Mr. Onolememen said.

While these happened, repeated reviews were carried out between the Ministry of Works, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC.

A final decision to terminate the contract was reached, Mr. Onolememen said, with the approval of the president.

Bi-Courtney is yet to make an official statement since Monday’s cancellation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway contract.

Its spokesman, Dipo Kehinde, had told PREMIUM TIMES that his company would issue a formal reaction to the deal. It is yet to do so.

A top source at Bi-Courtney said the firm doesn’t want to join issues with the Federal Government and does not plan to appeal the government’s decision.

“We don’t want to fight the government. For three years we made the road passable without collecting a dime from any government and despite the frustrating efforts of some states. But we will not say anything. Let’s wait and see,” the source said.


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