The House of Representatives has mandated its works committee to investigate “the slow pace of work on three critical projects” and a perceived conflict of interest due to Julius Berger’s involvement in the projects.
The committee was also tasked to ascertain the capacity of the company to deliver the projects as well open the financial records of the deal to see if the contract sums have been inflated and if the amount that has been disbursed matches quality of job done.
The three projects are the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano expressway and the 2nd Niger Bridge.
Coming under motion of urgent importance, Chudy Momah (APGA, Anambra) said he brought the motion to the House due to traffic snarls and fatal accidents being recorded on the roads and a downturn in the economy of the states bordering the projects.
“Critical projects were designated to be funded under the Presidential infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) domiciled at Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) so as to ensure proper and prompt funding,” he said.
Despite the prompt release of funds totalling ₦150.6 billion as of December last year, he said, the projects are lagging behind schedule.
He added that this lag has put many question marks on the capacity of Julius Berger to handle the projects and other major road projects under Sukuk simultaneously.
The 2nd Niger Bridge is a tripartite project which includes the bridge, Benin to Asaba expressway and Onitsha to Enugu expressway. Mr Momah alleged that the latter two were initially contracted to traditional contractors but later ceded to Julius Berger.
He further alleged that while the Bureau of Public Procurement valued the projects at ₦118 billion, it was awarded to Julius Berger at ₦206 billion.
“The use of Direct Procurement (Section 42 of the Public Procurement Act) in awarding these projects is against the Opening Competitive Bidding (Section 24 of the Public Procurement Act),” Mr Momah noted, saying this has deprived Nigerians of transparency, due process and the potential to save money.
A request seeking comment via the company’s website was not replied.
Last year, Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing, when he appeared before a joint session of the committees on housing, had also been challenged for making Julius Berger Nigeria’s sole contractor.
The minister denied this, saying since it is a ‘Nigerian company’ as it registered in the country and trades on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, “it has equal chances of bidding for and winning contracts like every other company registered in the country”.