As investigations progress into Aviation Minister Stella Adaeze Oduah’s scandalous purchase of two BMW armored cars that cost N255 million, members of the National Union of Air Transport Employees have called for a proper probe of the Aviation Ministry’s airport rehabilitation projects, describing them as an elaborate scam.
The embattled minister initiated extensive airport rehabilitation and remodeling projects that have gulped billions of naira.
It was revealed that the air workers union had written a petition to the Nigerian Senate in July. The petition portrayed the airport rehabilitation projects as a cesspool of corruption.
In the petition, the union accused the minister of personally benefiting from two-phase projects designed for the remodeling of eleven airports in the country. The petition alleged that the minister used N7 billion from the Federal Government’s 2012 appropriations as well as another N1 billion from internally generated revenue of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), an agency under the Aviation Ministry.
Ms. Oduah had reportedly asked the Ministerial Tenders Board to approve her plan to use a two-phased rehabilitation exercise. The petition alleged that the minister had awarded consultancy jobs to three crony firms in the last quarter of 2011 without advertisement or evidence of “no objection” from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). Instead, the minister allegedly awarded the contracts with the confidence that she would retroactively obtain the certificates of “no-objection” for the crony consultancy firms that received the contracts.
The N255.7 million contracts went to Messrs. Ngonyama Okpanum and Associates; Messrs. Design Union Consulting Limited, and Messrs. Triad Associates Limited, which received N99 million, N60.9 million, and N95.5 million respectively.
The air transport workers alleged that no comprehensive reports on the consultancy services were ever presented during any meeting at the tenders’ board level.
After getting away with the questionable methods for awarding consultancy contracts, the minister reportedly boasted at a tenders’ board meeting that she had obtained President Goodluck Jonathan’s approval to adopt a selective tender method for determining the contractors to execute the upgrade and rehabilitation projects at the eleven airports in 2012.
The petitioners said Ms. Oduah cajoled the tenders’ board to approve her predetermined list of companies for the contracts. In a letter which Ms. Oduah used FAAN to write to the BPP, the minister cited “urgency” as her basis for seeking selective tender method for the upgrade and rehabilitation of airports.
“Rehabilitation and upgrade do not qualify as emergency that call for urgency,” wrote the airport workers in their petition obtained by SaharaReporters.
An executive of the Tenders’ Board told SaharaReporters that the minister and her associates “said it was for urgency that they elected the selective tender method and stipulated six months [as the duration of the projects], but it is now over two years and you can see their basis for selective tender is defeated. This is properly a case of fraud.”
Citing a violation of section 40-42 of the Public Procurement Act, the workers argued that selective tendering would be justifiable for the award of contracts that require some peculiar
expertise available only to a select few companies.
“Renovation of terminal buildings falls short of this requirement, but BPP approved it for Selective Tendering (notwithstanding),” the petition said.
SaharaReporters also saw a letter written by BPP to FAAN giving approval for the desired selective tender method on the reasons, which the workers’ petition now faults.
In a curious development, the petitioning workers disclosed that the companies listed for the selective tender were not the same companies on site. A source in the union told SaharaReporters that Ms. Oduah substituted the companies she secured selective approval for at the BPP with other ones that eventually went on the site, without going back to the BPP for fresh approval of the companies that are eventually carrying out the projects.
“It seems as if the initial companies did not settle the minister to her satisfaction, hence her decision to bring in other companies to do the job,” the unionist told our correspondent.
The workers also disclosed that the contracts, which were most likely inflated due to the undue advantage of selective award to crony firms, were yet to be completed when Ms. Oduah appeared again at the tenders’ board, seeking approval for the “second phase.”
The workers’ petition to Senate asserted that “the contracts listed in the phase-two are [a] repetition of the same contracts described in phase-one earlier approved.” They contended that the rates in Phase-Two were even more inflated.
In the petition, which the Senate leadership has failed to address since receiving it in July, the workers stated, for example, that “Zakhem Construction Nig. Ltd was awarded the contract for upgrade of [Murtala Muhammed International Airport] Lagos in the 1st phase at the sum of N920,191,147.58. Curiously, [the] same company was awarded another contract in the tune of N981,900,300.45 for ‘upgrade and rehabilitation’ of MMIA Lagos, under a spurious banner of Phase II.
“One of the documents obtained by SaharaReporters shows that the ministry quoted N270.261 million for direct procurement of an “emergency relocation” of Airside Power House/Associated Equipment at E-Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos. The direct procurement was prepared in favor of a certain Messrs. Gamji Nigeria Ltd.
“Our minister has a tradition of starting something with [a] minimum of N255 million, just as the sham consultancy jobs for airport rehabilitation, and it is trite to remind of the N255 million BMW cars,” an air transport worker stated.
“All she seems to care about is amassing wealth for herself and her cronies while planes occasionally drop from Nigerian skies,” an Abuja-based transparency advocate said.
Source: Sahara Reporters