June 17, 2024

Lokoja-Benin Road: Umahi threatens to terminate N870bn contracts with five firms

The Minister of Works, Engr.David Umahi, has threatened to terminate over 870 billion Naira contracts with five firms handling the Lokoja-Benin Road.

Umahi directed the contractors handling sections I-IV of the Lokoja-Benin Road in Kogi and Edo states, to immediately sign the documents on the reviewed contracts or face the termination of their jobs.

The directive was handed down to the contractors during the minister’s meeting with the representatives of Mothercat, CCECC, Dantata & Sawoe, CGC and RCC, held at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja.

Umahi further directed the ministry to, within seven days, carry out a comprehensive audit of ongoing projects, to know the status of work done, the capacity of personnel and equipment being used by the contractors.

This was contained in a statement signed by his special Adviser (Media), Mr Uchenna Orji, on Sunday.

He accused the construction firms of playing pranks, wondering why the contractors who were part of the process of re-scoping and reviewing the contract specifications failed to sign the reviewed contract documents after agreeing to do the job based on the new specification.

”The project was initially N121 billion, but before the administration of President Bola Tinubu, the project was already reviewed to about over N870 billion.

“When I came in as minister, I saw that the project was over-bloated, and I refused to take the ‘No Objection’ to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

“I had to go through the road myself, and I realised that some sections of the road could not survive asphalt. So, we started meetings that took us over five months with all the contractors. In the meetings, we agreed to re-scope the project.

“We said the new lanes should be done on concrete and the other ones done on asphalt. So, we kept the contracts up and we all signed the documents and based on signing the documents, we took it to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

“From the BPP, we went to FEC, and before we went to FEC, we demanded for them to approve that they could do the job. They all gave us letters of approval,” he stated.

The minister said that the contractors were given the jobs without having the required manpower and equipment to do the task, and warned that henceforth, any contractor signing a contract must do so alongside the basic rate and timeline.

He said: “So the position of the government is that if you are not signing the contracts between today and tomorrow, you will forgo the jobs. You can go to court. We will not enter into any condition for further negotiation.

“This contract is over N2 billion per kilometre. You don’t have the equipment to do the work. Let me even assure you that if you are signing the contract, you will sign it alongside the basic rates. You sign it alongside the timetable, and you deploy it in three sections, or I will terminate the job. Enough of playing with the psyche of the people.”

He stated that the ministry would not allow any contractor to hold the country to ransom or to impose their conditions on the ministry.

“You don’t want to work, leave the job. It’s not compulsory that you must be the one to do the job. You cannot be on-site, and the people are dying.

“The vehicles are falling, and you’re playing politics with the lives of the people. And we fold our hands and leave you. If you are not working, pack your things out of that site,” he added.

Also speaking, the Director, Highways, South, C.AnA Ogbuagu said the contractors had earlier accepted the new conditions and that letters of award were given to them.

He said: “After the FEC approved the argumentation, the legal department was brought in so that this new contract will now be executed so that work will continue on site. So, for about two weeks now, the draft addendum has been with the contractors, and none of them has positively responded, except RCC.”

One of the contractors, CGC, expressed commitment to the directive of the minister, saying a draft had already been sent to the head office.

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