Pastor Usani Uguru Usani

Why is it that the Federal Government released N423billion for 427 projects in the Niger Delta Region within a six-year period with little to show for it?

This is what the anti-graft agencies will unravel as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Wednesday referred a report from the Niger Delta ministry for action.

Most of the contracts totaling N700 billion but for which N423billion had been released were awarded during the administration of former Presidents Umaru Yaradua and Goodlcuck Jonathan.

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Usani N. Usani told reporters at the end of the FEC meeting, that 60 per cent of the contracts sum, (about N423 billion) had been released for the 427 projects in the region without corresponding physical delivery on site.

According to him, those found culpable in the investigations would either be made to return money or be prosecuted by the anti-graft agencies.

He said: “Today FEC received approval of a project technical audit committee report ‎which was carried out by the ministry in investigating all contracts awarded and projects and programmes carried out in the ministry from inception of the ministry from 2009 to 2015.

“The revealing content of the report shows that over N423 billion has been expended in the region by the ministry alone, ‎not other intervening agencies. From this amount, project execution rate has been at 12percent, with an average completion rate of a project standing at 5 years. And the impact rate is 8percent.

“So, today we have sought approval from Council to have the recommendations of this report conveyed to the legitimate agencies charged with the statutory responsibilities of recovering government assets that are either misappropriated, misused or fund to be idling in some quarters.

“With this, it means all those who have accessed government resources for one purpose or another must be compelled to make adequate use of same otherwise face the recommendations that go with such violations and that is our position concerning that report. And we have got Council approval for that.

“It’s also important to place emphasis on the fact that in the region of 60per cent resources in terms of funds had been paid out to contractors with that 12per cent completion rate. When we say 60per cent, it is 60per cent of the amount of money that was actually appropriated, being N700billion. And so, 60per cent of that constitutes N423 billion.

“So, to find that N423 billion has been expended in the region with the type of result we see obviously shows that there is something tangibly and obviously wrong with how procurement had been carried out in the ministry,” he said.

He stressed that only those contractors who failed to deliver on their contractual terms after receiving payments would be sanctioned.

He however clarified that some of the contractors actually did well and at such are being commended.

Asked whether those public officials found to have colluded with the erring contractors would be sanctioned, Usani said those found culpable would also face the music.

“The report has also recommended where complicity is found in the evaluation or monitoring personnel or department, that sanctions ‎should be taken. So, I can confirm that to you.

On East West road, he said “As you know, no government agency is sufficiently funded. That becomes a major challenge, the second issue is to address the concern about commitment or lack of it by government, no administration to the best of my knowledge within a democratic setting has been more committed than this present government.

“And demonstration in this is the action of this administration to go ahead and seek extra budgetary special loan credit from China to the tune of $500 million, now we are making a fresh application to increase that to $774 million dollars to be able to tackle an aspect of that road and this came under five of the special projects nominated by the President to see that work doesn’t stop and if you look at our budget as lean as it is, about 50 per cent goes on the allocation to the east west road.

“Beyond that for this year the budget ministry proposed N8billion counterpart funding for the credit facility we are getting from china and so we are committed but it is just impossible to say we will be able to allocate enough funds because the competing demand do not allow satisfaction in every sector of the economy, so it’s a problem for us.”

Minister of Science and Technology Ogbonnna Onu, noted that Nigeria’s dependence on importation of raw materials and products has had very adverse effects on Nigeria’s economy particularly on job creation.

He said: “Nigeria is a great nation and we have abundance of natural resources in our country. It doesn’t make sense that we leave what we have and be importing from outside.

“For example, between 2000 and 2015, Nigeria spent as much as N49 trillion importing raw materials and products. At that time, not that it was sustainable, but our economy could manage such level of importation because crude oil sold most of the time above $100 per barrel. But definitely now, such level of importation is unsustainable but we are paying a price right now because if we have depended on our own raw materials, we would have had a service.

“With the sharp drop in the prices of crude oil, Nigeria would have been able to withstand such a shock and we would not have had such problem that we are passing through now.

“So, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is determined to change the direction that Nigeria is passing through. In the past 56 years, we have depended on foreign commodities. We have relied on importation. We have sacrificed jobs.

“We now want to move our economy away from that into innovation driven-economy. So, Raw Materials Processing and Development Council, one of the agencies under the supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology had to undertake very important study.

“Before the study was done, there was extensive consultation with research institutes, countries and universities, businesses, industries, governments at all levels to determine our level of dependence on outside products and to find a way we can stop this.

“We had seen what other countries such as Canada, China, India, Japan and South Korea did. It is now very clear to us that if we move in the direction that approval was given today, Nigeria will be having service in the next five years and this will be very helpful because what it means is that the abundance of natural resources can now be utilised for industrial production in the country. Then, we’ll be able to give jobs to Nigerians.

“The major thrust of President Muhammadu Buhari administration is that we should be producing made-in-Nigeria goods so that those who want to work will be able to do so and this is the way to do so. Above all, as a great nation, we must work for self-reliance. We must be a self-reliant nation. Other countries have achieved it. We must be able to achieve it,” he stated.

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