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N18bn contractors’ debt: Group accuses SSA to the President of plans to divert funds

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By Onozure Dania

Human Rights Group Advocates for People Right and Justice, has raised an alarm over the alleged plans by the office of the Senior Special Adviser, SSA, to the President on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, to divert, misappropriate funds meant for the payment of local contractors who are being owed over N18 billion.

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

The group accused the office of the SSA to the President on MDGs of plans to divert part of the N15bn released for the payment of the contractors by awarding fresh contracts to themselves and cronies while deliberately refusing and neglecting to pay the contractors who the funds were meant for.

In a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari by its National Coordinator, Victor Giwa, the group accused the office of the SSA of diversion of funds and perversion of some sections of the procurement Act.

According to Giwa “The summary of the facts is that certain Nigerians, businessmen and small scale business owners and employers of labour had in 2013/2014 bided and won numerous contracts under the OSSAP on MDGs for various works in all the states of Nigeria. The contracts were executed, evaluated and confirmation was given by the relevant authority and certify action issued for onward payment.

“Sir, instead of prompt payment of the contractors, who had by their letter of awards, sought and received loans and other credit facilities from various bank for the execution of the project, the former SSAP indulged in selective payment, manipulation and fund diversion, paying a meagre amount to the real contractors.

He noted: “After series of intense pressure and agitation from these contractors and the intervention of the former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Iweala, in 2014, the then SSAP, incorporated these contractors’ liabilities in the value of 15 billion naira, in the 2015 budget of her office, under the sub head MDG Intervention 1 and 2 and the contractors were pacify to wait for the release.

“It is shocking that while the OSSAP is now in receipt of the said sum via a warrant of release dated December 8, 2015, under the sub head MDG Intervention 1 and 2, officers of the OSSAP have failed, refuse and neglected to pay the said contractors their full sum. But have rather engaged in diversion of this fund into award of new contracts, for personal gains. This is in clear breach of the Fiscal Responsibility and Financial (Control and Management) Acts, Laws of the Federation.

“More so, the officials even in the award of the new contract, have brazenly perverted the express provisions of section 30 (a-e) of Public Procurement Act, in that they neither permitted bidders or attendees to observe the bidding process nor did they cause all the bids to be made in the open.

“It’s is further curious that the OSSAP-MDGS knowing full well that we have only but two weeks to the end of the 2015 fiscal year, are still bent on going ahead with the procurement process that is anything but fraud.”

“All entreaties for the OSSAP to channel the funds into liquidating it’s liabilities to its contractors have been met with an excuse that the Projects are meant for the Members of the National Assembly.

“The constitution of Nigeria is very clear that while the Assembly Appropriates the Executive Implements so we are at a loss on how it has now become the responsibilities of the National Assembly to insist on the implementation of projects that are bound to fail and that will only lead to increasing the already over bloated liabilities of the Federal Government.

“Consequently, we are seeking the following prayers: (i).Immediate payment of the duly owed contractors through the MDG Intervention 1 & 2 releases; (ii) Outright cancellation or stoppage of the award of new contracts.”

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