The House of Representatives committee interrogating the utilisation of the N60billion allocation made to the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has identified several loopholes in the way and manner in which the finances were deployed.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by Rep. Bamidele Salam when the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Engr. (Dr.) Chukwuemeka Agbasi appeared before the committee with a large delegation.
Suspicions started mounting when the agency which was rescheduled to re-appear today could not produce enough copies of the requested documents. Instead of producing about 60 copies to be distributed to the members of the committee, it tendered only 11 copies. Relatedly, their submission was done just this morning as against last Friday as it was asked in the invitation letter.
It took the intervention of the committee’s Chairman reasonableness before the presentation was not stalled.
Things got to a crescendo when questions started pouring in after the MDs presentation.
On the breakdown, the committee was informed that a total of 192 projects were carried out across the country which numbers took turns to debunk that such does not exist in their constituencies.
Jeremiah Umaru, the deputy chairman of the committee, for instance, said the road mentioned in his constituency, Wamba-Akwanga road has been in a state of disrepair for several years and was surprised to hear the MD mention it as part of those facelifted during the Covid-19.
“Mr. MD, I just came from Wamba today and the road between Akwanga and Wamba or Wamba and Akwanga is terribly bad. Mr. Chairman since I know that road, that road is a very bad condition.
“So, I want to know whether this money went to another Akwanga-Wamba road or the one I am.representing”, Hon. Jeremiah emphasised.
Another road from Tafawa Balewa area to a location around Plateau state was also put under the spotlight as a lawmaker and member of the committee requested for the pictorial evidence of the road during that period hence, in his explanation, it does not sound real to him.
“Going down to item 24 which affect directly my local government area-Tafawa Balewa, you made mention that there is a company called Dali Investment was given a contract of N227million for maintenance of the road between Tafawa Balewa and Plateau state border. I need a pictorial evidence of that and the progress report during that period”, Hon. Leko Jafaru Gambo fired at FERMA.
Another lawmaker from Osun, Hon. Adewale Adebayo expressed serious concerns when he informed the committee that, a particular project which was contracted had its fund moved into direct labour without satisfactory explanation pointing out that there was no time survey was done of the raid to ascertain the need to maintain that particular section as mentioned by FERMA.
“Mr. Chairman, I want to disagree in totality with what was quoted here as per the slot given to Osun state. To be precise, the road from Osogbo to Okuku. The road got to a state that our amiable governor reconstructed the road from Osogbo down to Kwara road. That is my concern.
“I want FERMA to explain why they alloted over one hundred and eighty million to repair and maintain that road without even a survey on that road. Secondly, let’s go to page 12 number 193-general maintained of selected roads in Nigeria by direct labour. I want the FERMA DG to explain who are the people collecting money for direct labour as quoted here”, Hon. Adewale queried.
Hon. Usman Balami from Borno state said: Mr Speaker and Mr Chairman, I quickly want to draw the attention of FERMA to number 38-major maintainance and repairs of Biu-Shafa-Garkida-Adamawa road in Borno state. This contract was said to be awarded in 2020 and the status of this contact is ‘completed’ with the sum of N254, 137,498.40.
“Mr. Chairman Sir, I am from Shafa in particular from Hau local government. And I want to confirm to this house that there is no one single move of construction have been done in that particular location. I want to get clarification on how this road has been repaired in the period between 2020, 2021 and 2022.
“Mr. Chairman, I just returned from home. If that is any death trap in that area, it is that road”.
Another area which was not believed by the committee was the assertion by FERMA that it has expended N59.9b with a balance of about N8.9million with several projects still outstanding amounting to N190million just as a project administrative cost of N778, 571, 26 million embedded in the contracts was frowned at.
“Project number 147.This project cover my senatorial district. That is in Ogun state. I am aware of the work that is going on there today. The road is been repaired by Dangote. And they have been on the road for the past 4 years. There is no any presence of FERMA on that particular road. I am surprised to see that FERMA claimed that they are doing Covid project there”, Hon. Akinlade Abiodun protested.
Ruling on the spirit and mood of the committee, the chairman, announced that another deep look will be taken into the books and requested for more specific documents, vouchers, pictorial evidences of all the projects.
Chairman of the committee further informed the hearing that, the Auditor-General’s audit report 8ndicted FERMA of constructing a non-existing Gasmi-Ashigo-Gogaram road in Yobe state to the tune of N2billion and the office indicated a strong suspicion that the sum was diverted and not spent on the road.
In a unanimous conclusion, bearing in mind the several infractions, seeming falsehoods and distortion of fact the committee set up a sub-committee, headed by Hon. Jeremiah Umaru, to physically verify the projects as presented by FERMA.
The agency is to re-appear on a new date.
Lubem Gena, Legislative and Media Assistant to Rep. Bamidele Salam
Monday, 4th December, 2023