by Ibrahim Faruk
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, over the weekend, again expressed its desire to investigate former Minister of Works, Chief Tony Anenih over his alleged role in
some failed road contracts worth billions of naira.
In October 2009, a senate committee issued a report on their investigation into the use of more than N300 billion in the transport sector during the Obasanjo administration. The committee recommended prosecution of thirteen former Ministers, including Chief Anenih, saying he had awarded contracts without budgetary provision. In November 2009, the Senate indefinitely shelved consideration of the report.
Did the House get that memo? The Senate had to shelve it INDEFINITELY.
But talking tough, Hon Solomon Adeola (ACN/Lagos), Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, while speaking with journalists, said that Chief Anenih would be formally invited to appear before the House this week. Apparently, Adeola’s machismo is due to the fact that he is an ACN member.
The contracts to be investigated were awarded during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration when Anenih served as Minister of Works.
Adeola maintained that Anenih has a case to answer, stressing that his testimony will enable the Public Accounts Committee conclude its
deliberations on the. 2006 Report of the Auditor General for the Federation.
“We will formally invite Anenih to come and explain to us how about N20 billion remained largely accounted for during his tenure as
Works Minister. We want him to come so that we can conclude our investigations. He has a case to answer and if he does not come, it will make our findings inconclusive,” Adeola said.
The Committee had about two months ago summoned Anenih over a N2.3 billion purportedly disbursed in 2006 for a road project. The road contract was said to have been awarded in 2001
and later abandoned after payments had been made to the contractor. The contractor was also reported to have absconded overseas when it became clear that investigations were on to unravel the facts behind the contract.
The Public Accounts Committee had at that time threatened to use the services of Interpol to extradite the contractor, Torno Internazionale Nigeria Limited. The 2006 Report of the Auditor-General of the Federation, alleged that the failed road contract was awarded at the cost of N2.3
billion. Out of this amount, the sum N552 million was paid, before the contract was terminated. Torno Internationale had put in the lowest bid of N2.318 billion with 18 months completion during the bidding stage and secured FEC approval.
Chief Anenih in a four-page letter dated November 29, 2012, to Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, tried to clarify:
“It is instructive to note that during evaluation and inspections, the competence and capacity of Torno to execute the contract was never in doubt because their construction equipment were all on display at Zuru Town in Kebbi State where they were doing a township road for the Kebbi State Government. Also of note is that Torno’s parent company Torno Internationale SPA, built Shiroro dam in 1990,” he said.
Anenih said he left office at a point when the contractor had received a total of N672 million by the end of October 2002 and was at 16% level of completion.
“However, I am told that in 2004, two years after I had left the ministry, based on the threat by the contractor to stop work on the
ground that the contract has been frustrated by government’s failure to pay for job executed after several demands for such payment to be made, the then Honourable Minister (Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe) took a memo to Federal Executive Council for the termination of the contract. I was further informed that the contractor in 2005, took the matter for arbitration and obtained judgment against the government. It is therefore clear from the foregoing that the contract was not terminated by government on the ground of incompetence of the contractor rather it was the contractor that sought termination because of failure of Government to pay for job done,” he further stated.
The contractor later went to court and obtained court judgment of N1.3 billion against the Federal Government for terminating the contract.
Chief Tony Anenih was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan as Chairman of the board of the Nigerian Ports Authority in December 2012 and is a candidate for the Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the People’s Democratic Party.