Sunday Ilori

It is generally acknowledged that in a democracy, power resides with the people. And the people use this power to elect their leaders. In doing so, there are high expectations from the leaders so elected. But when expectations are not met, and hopes are dashed, people lose faith in the leadership. Leadership failure is either by design through faulty policies or extraneous forces beyond the control of the leader. There are other factors, like corruption for instance.

My treatise concerns Ogun State and the last administration in the Gateway State. It is, indeed, more imperative, if not necessary, to point out the unwholesome and widespread allegations of financial misappropriation and despicable profligacy that characterised the award of contracts by that administration. The administration claimed to have mobilised Chinese contractors and others with 100 percent funds for the speedy completion of all its projects spread across the different parts of the state before exiting office in 2019. However, most of the projects were not properly executed. It was as if the contractors were starved of funds. Some projects suffered outright abandonment.

Having inherited some of the shoddy and abandoned projects, and to ensure probity, prudence, transparency and accountability, it wasn’t surprising that the first major task of the present administration was to set up a contract review committee to look into all the awarded projects, either abandoned or completed, between 2009 and 2019 that were without recourse to due process, and with attendant infractions. The Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, no doubt, must be commended for his courage and bold step as a true servant of the people in taking such steps in the interest of the people of the state.

The recent submission of the report of the Contract Review Committee has opened the floodgate of mind-boggling corruption in the financial transactions that characterised the award of contracts by the immediate past administration. These unwholesome practices have left a sour taste in the mouths of Ogun State citizens and which to a large extent, has stultified the expected accelerated growth and development of the state.

In his speech, while submitting the report of the committee to Prince Abiodun, on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, the Chairman of the Review Committee, Adekunle Mokuolu, said a total of 114 contracts/projects were awarded during the period (2009 and 2019) at a cost of N349,376,997.76. The total payment made for the Contracts/Projects was N130,735,758,922.75. The total amount for unpaid Certificates of Valuation (CV) for work done was N20,741,675,388.76. The amount needed to complete the projects reviewed is N218,380,996,134.47.
He said: “The percentage of contracts awarded in terms of cost was 88 per cent for Works and Infrastructure, one percent for Agriculture, two per cent for Health, three per cent for Education, two per cent for Housing, two per cent for Commerce and Industry, while the balance was taken up by other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“The Committee can confirm to your Excellency that based on the facts available and proven by us, there were common threads that passed through the contracts and projects reviewed. These have been highlighted in our report and appropriate recommendations have been made to ensure sustainable development of Ogun State. We assure you, sir, that all the Terms of Reference you gave to us were thoroughly addressed with technical and professional diagnoses, conclusions, and recommendations framework to facilitate comprehension and decision-making based on facts. All Ogun State Statutes, Policies and Documents used in executing the assignment were easily referenced in this report.

“Besides, findings revealed that the executive summary identified no common basis for submission of Bids/Tenders because each company had different quantities for which to apply their rates for the various items of works; the process of approval for additional works or variations of the scope of works was very faulty as verbal instructions from higher authorities were often alluded to without written confirmation even for variation of 50 per cent over and above the contract sum in some cases.

“There were cases of improper variation claims. An advert in a newspaper dated 3rd of November, 2011, had stipulated that the submission from the various contractors were valid for 90 days. The first contract awarded for the projects listed in the referenced advert was awarded after the validity period of 90 days. However, the contract numbered did not march 2011 and 2013. The period of one week stipulated for submission of bids/tender by the selected companies invited for execution of contract for Turnkey Projects is unreasonable vide June 25-July 5, 2013.

“Based on the infractions, it was gathered that there was unnecessary exposure of the State Government to heavy debt and financial burden through award of multi-billion Naira projects that were ill-conceived. “All contracts awarded from June 8, 2015, when the State Governor signed the Law regulating Public Procurement contravened this Law since these projects were not certified by Ogun State Procurement Bureau before awarding them.”

Overall, it was learnt that there was no establishment of Right of Ways before embarking on construction. No readiness, i.e., relocation of services among others. Other observations include a progressive degeneration of compliance with Standard Procedures for Contract Procurement, Project Administration, and compliance with established extant Laws, Policies and Guidelines. Most of the projects were considered ill-conceived, of no socio-economic value to the community or general development of the state.

From the assessment of these enormous contracts; no single Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was submitted in respect of any of the major projects, such as the Abeokuta International Airport, Wasimi Project and the 10 lane Abeokuta-Sagamu Interchange Road and others. It is a sad reminder that the last administration, towards the end of its lifespan issued directives to contractors (at short notice) to complete the various projects that were ongoing without taking into consideration the quality of such jobs.

Eventually, projects like the dedicated 250-bed State Specialist Hospital located along Presidential Boulevard, Okemosan, the new Judicial complex, road projects, among others, all located within Abeokuta, the state capital, were hurriedly and officially unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari, even when they were not completed as the contractors handling them failed to meet set deadline.

This was a sham and indeed a shame! What were we flaunting? Who were we impressing? Who are we deceiving? This is a state that has produced great icons and pioneers in every sphere of human endeavour, yet one opportunist would think he had a monopoly and hegemony to foist his control over all and sundry. This was a slap on the collective wisdom and psyche of the people of the state.

Without equivocation, the much-touted “legacy projects” were of no economic benefits to the developmental goals of the state, but rather a drift to impoverishing the citizens the more.

At every stage, awarding contracts and projects without factoring the economic benefits to the citizens, in either the long or, medium and short-term is injurious to the people. As customary, this is a true reflection of a typical average Nigerian politician who takes delight in perfidy, as his only definition of our home-grown democracy, to the detriment of the generality of the poor citizens. But, in a nutshell, this perfidy boils down to the ‘get-rich-quick’ syndrome that has become part of our political process in the country.

It is until we begin to purge ourselves of every act capable of inflicting untold hardships on the citizenry and have the fear of God that we can better the lots of the people.
–––Ilori is a Public Commentator. He writes from Abeokuta, Ogun state capital.

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