Members of the House of Representatives said on Friday that the contract for the construction of the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano dual carriage way was inflated.
By Tony Akowe, Abuja
The contract was allegedly awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria at the cost of N155 billion with a completion period or 36 weeks.
They said at the time the contract was awarded to Julius Berger, there were other companies that quoted about N90 billion for the 375-kilometere road, insisting that even though there is no commensurate work done compared to the money paid so far, it must be delivered on schedule.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing however disagreed with the members over the unit cost of constructing the road.
The lawmakers are insisting that the project was over-priced and awarded to the company even when there were contractors that quoted far less figures than the contract sum.
The Chairman of the Committee on Oversight Function, Hon. Abubakar Kabir, told newsmen that while Julius Berger has collected about N70 billion from the Federal Government, an assessment of the work done so far revealed that the contractor was yet to accomplish more than 20 per cent of the total work.
While the lawmakers said the unit cost of the project per kilometre stands at about N450 million, the Zonal Director of Works for North West, Engr. Esan Folurunsho, and the Engineer Representatives supervising the project, Engr. James Zira, said the materials being used for the Kaduna to Zaria section of the road was cheaper for Nigeria.
The lawmakers had asked the ministry officials the unit cost per Kilometre when Engr. Zira told them that the contractor was removing the old asphalt and reusing them as base overlay for the road, adding that it was a cheaper concept for the country.
He had said: “We are removing and reusing the asphalt on the road. It is a different method and cheaper concept. If we throw the asphalt away, it will have negative impact on the environment.”
But Zira and his Director could not provide answers to questions on the cost per unit for the Job, insisting that they must be allowed to return to the office to do a calculation of the unit cost; an answer that angered members of the committee.
The Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Edu, fired back: “But you knew we were coming for this oversight. You should have prepared all these answers for us. This is unacceptable.
“You are telling us that what is being done here is cheaper for Nigeria and yet, you cannot tell us the unit cost.
“You knew we were coming here. The Chairman asked you a vital question which must be answered because the question is vital to Nigerians. If this is cheaper for Nigerians, then at what cost?”
Some angry members could be heard saying “if you cannot provide us the answers we need, then you are not fit for this job. We will recommend your removal. The contractor is giving them bills and they are paying.”
The committee Chairman told the Ministry Representatives: “You are not talking to novices. You are talking to professionals. The cost per kilometre for this project is about N450 million. We are not dumb. The cost is too high.
“Julius Berger says they signed for rehabilitation and now they are doing reconstruction. But even at that, the cost is far above the cost of a virgin road anywhere in the world.
“We have to protect the interest of Nigerians because this is our country. We don’t have any other country to call our own. We don’t want anybody to send a memo to the President later regarding funding for this project.
“What we are saying is that the cost for this project is too high. We know of some companies that quoted N90 billion for this project, but we don’t want to mention names. We have several petitions regarding this project in the House. The cost was initially N159 billion before it was scaled down to N155 billion.
“There are nine months left on the contract and we must emphasise that it must be delivered on schedule. There will be no extension. Otherwise, we will apply the force of the constitution.
“We have a similar experience on the Lagos-Ibadan Road and that project is almost 15 years now and it has not been completed. We don’t want that to repeat itself on this road.
“Julius Berger has confirmed to us that they don’t have funding problem. But the Julius Berger we knew in the past is not the same Julius Berger we have now. Their performance is far below expectations.”
Representative of Julius Berger, Mark Jefferson, assured the committee that the work would be delivered on schedule.