Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has called on a former minister of work, Mike Onolememen, to explain to Nigerians the whereabouts of $700 million (N140 billion) released for the unexecuted second Niger bridge project.
Mr. Oshiomhole said in a statement by his chief press secretary, Peter Okhiria, that he stood by an earlier statement that $700 million was drawn from the sovereign wealth funds for the project.
“Rather than crucify Comrade Oshiomhole for the disclosure, former Minister of Works should direct his energy and explanation to the managers of the Sovereign Wealth Fund who have depleted the savings on the explanation that it was meant for the 2nd Niger Bridge,” the statement said.
Mr. Oshiomhole said, “The revelation came from those who were managers of the Sovereign Wealth Funds and not figures manufactured by anybody”.
“They told our committee that about $700m dollars were taken from the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the Second Niger Bridge project,” Mr. Oshiomhole said.
Mr. Onolememen had on Friday in a statement denied the allegation. He said Mr. Oshiomhole was misleading Nigerians with “wild and spurious” allegations.
The former minister said, “The Federal Government of Nigeria, guided by the Transaction Adviser, Roughton International, agreed to provide a refundable Catalytic Funding of N30bn. By May 2015, N10bn Catalytic Funding was paid from the Federal Ministry of Works’ SURE-P Budget to fast-track the early and sub-structural works of the bridge. This implies that the successful concessionaire, JB-NSIA Consortium, has responsibility for the design, finance and construction of the project, as well as its operation.”
He added that the total project cost is N108bn (excluding duties and Value Added Tax) with a completion period of about 48 months. This cost was arrived at, after the Bureau of Public Procurement’s review of the concessionaire’s submitted cost of N138bn, the former minister said.
However, Mr. Oshiomhole said since the former minister was aware that no reasonable work had been done on the second Niger Bridge, he and the mangers of the sovereign wealth funds should simply explain to Nigeria what they did with the huge amount that was withdrawn for the project.
“The real people who should apologize to Nigerians for their many sins against the country are those who expended so much of our resources without any corresponding achievements to show for it,” the governor said.
The governor accused the former minister and the past administration of destroying existing roads rather than rehabilitate them.
He said, “In Edo state, the Aduwawa end of the Benin-Auchi road is almost impassable especially during this rainy season. As we speak, erosion has cut off the Benin-Auchi road into two and motorists are going through hell passing through that road. What about Benin- Abraka road; one hell of a road completely abandoned and vandalized. In the name of politics, they came trying to impress Edo people but ended up depressing all of us.”