June 20, 2009

Elumelu, others did not commit fraud, group insists

THE Legal Relief Group, an Abuja based organization, says Rep Ndudi Elumelu, Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Dr. Aliyu Abdulahi and others standing trial for allegedly breaching the Public Procurement Act by disbursing Rural Electrification Agency’s funds (N5.2 billion) to contractors for projects in the amended 2008 budget did not commit any fraud.

The group said it arrived at this conclusion after painstaking investigations carried out independently by its members.

The group told newsmen that the N5.2 billion is in the 2008 amended budget which was signed into law on 31 October, 2008. The projects which are in two phases (grid extension and solar electrification) were to be executed within 90 days and 60 days respectively.

The group explained that it had ascertained from the Ministry of Power with relevant documentation from the ministry’s routine assessments that 72 out of the grid extension projects had been executed, while 20 of the solar electrifications projects had also been executed.

The allegation that the N5.2 billion was disbursed without any project on ground to justify disbursement is false, the group insisted.

“The amended 2008 budget was signed into law 31 October, 2008. Upon signing the budget, the Rural Electrification Agency had just two months (November and December) to award the jobs before the end of 2008 and they shopped for 2006 pre-qualified Ministry of Power contractors to execute the jobs,” the group said.

It stated that its investigations also revealed that contractors were paid the statutory 15% mobilization and the 85% balance payments are all intact in the banks; and not in private pockets as alleged.

In what it described as calling a dog a bad name in order to kill it, the group contended that the accused lawmakers had no business awarding contracts, as it is the prerogative of the executive arm of government.

The Legal Relief Group posited that the same Act criminalizes the act of awarding contracts without making the requisite provision for its payments.