…As Finance Ministry alleges insertion of fictitious names into its payee list
By Luminous Jannamike – Abuja
At least 5,000 contractors, who executed validly awarded contracts in Federal Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies have begun an indefinite hunger strike demanding payment for projects they completed as far back as 2008.
The strike came as the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning blamed fictitious names discovered in its payee list for the delay in settling them.
Meanwhile, many of the contractors said they were facing criminal charges in various courts for funds they borrowed to execute Federal Government project and could not payback.
The hunger strikers, under the aegis of Local Contractors of Nigeria, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to mandate the Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, to pay them now or else they would remain in the protest before the eye of the globe.
Briefing journalists during their demonstration at the Federal Ministry of Finance, in Abuja on Monday, Publicity Secretary of the contractors’ association, Mr Dandy Rowland, said: “The Minister of Finance through her media aide told us President Buhari has approved the release of N18bn for our payment.
“She also announced on July 8, 2020, that the Ministry would pay local contractors between 7 to 14 days from the date of the announcement.
“This empty and unfulfilled promise heightened the pressure from our creditors after the expiration of the stipulated period.
“Nigerians should know that the fund spent on the repetitive verification exercise almost equals the amount owed us put together.
“Local contractors borrowed money from banks with interest and executed these projects.”Federal Government did not waste time to commission the projects we executed with borrowed money as her achievements. But now, it is taking government decades to do verification for our payment.
“So, the government must pay us now, because if the reverse had been the case, if we had collected government money without executing the projects, government have arrested and jailed us. This is corruption and it is unacceptable.”
Why we have not paid them – Perm Sec
But, the Permanent Secretary (Special Duties), Federal Ministry of Finance, Aliyu Ahmed, assured the contractors that the government had money to pay them.
However, Ahmed said the funds were no longer up to the N18bn earlier announced by the Ministry.
So, he attributed the delay in payments to the measures put in place to ensure the Ministry disbursed available funds judiciously.
The Permanent Secretary said the government had discovered many fictitious names inserted into its payee list for contractors by unknown criminal elements. Hence, the multiple verification exercises by the Ministry.
Therefore, he urged the contractors to end their protest and give the Finance Ministry 21 days to sort the issues and pay them.