We have read the dubious statements published in The Vanguard newspaper of Friday, May 22, 2020, and credited to Rodnab Construction Limited wherein it claimed that the queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation in respect of the contract awarded to it for the completion of the head office building of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was non-existent. It is clear that what Rodnab and its patrons are trying to do is to win public sympathy and change the narrative against the backdrop of the probe by the National Assembly of the fraudulent deals perpetrated by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC under the supervision of Chief Godswill Akpabio, Minister for Niger Delta Affairs.
We wish to restate that the office of the Auditor General of the Federation indeed carried out an audit on the NDDC and produced a detailed report a copy of which was forwarded to the Commission for its necessary action. It is clear that Rodnab is a fraudulent company, which evidence is clear in the published reports of the Auditor General of the Federation, and like the companies that have been linked to the fraudulent payments running into several billions of naira, it should not even rear its ugly face anywhere. We believe that even if they were not copied officially, Rodnab must have been informed of this by its collaborators in the IMC and they cannot deny this because the report was duly forwarded to the NDDC for its necessary action.
We are not surprised that Rodnab has taken this route to be clever-by-half when the fact of the matter is that it has benefitted fraudulently from the abuse of financial regulations by the current minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio, and the interim management committee of the NDDC, by collecting full payment for the headquarters building which is not yet completed. As we will show in excerpts of the OAGF report, there were no evidences that Rodnab was properly awarded the contract. Also, it was clear that the company was being used to withdraw funds from the NDDC by corrupt elements, who duplicated jobs already included in the main contract for the head office building and awarded them to other companies. It is, therefore, a blatant lie if Rodnab claims that it is unaware of these infractions, being a favoured contractor in the NDDC under Akpabio.
The OAGF report was revelatory in detail and scathing in conclusion, practically stating that the contract awarded to Rodnab did not follow due process because there was no such evidence in the books of the NDDC. For the avoidance of doubt and for the interest of mischief makers who may want to contest this fact, it is a mandate of the office of the Auditor-General to ‘carry out statutory function including value-for-money expended to ascertain the level of the economy, effectiveness and efficiency from a government project.’ It has a statutory responsibility to audit all government ministries departments and agencies (MDAs).
On the NDDC headquarter building under the heading under Issue 43 in its report titled, ‘Irregularities in the contract for the completion of the Niger Delta Development Commission Headquarters Building, Port Harcourt, Rivers State – N16,222,492,843.76’, the OAGF reported significant non-compliance with extant Procurement and financial regulations. It noted ‘Under Findings’ that “The contract was awarded to Messrs Rodnab Construction Limited through Ref. No NDDC/HQ/EDP/UIDW/RV/WAT/PR/17/083 at a contract sum of N16,222,492,843.76. From the documents made available to the team, there was no evidence of authorities and approvals like minutes of appropriate tender Board meeting to back up these upward reviews. Also, there was no evidence of ratification/adoption of these actions by the NDDC board or other appropriate boards. Also observed and very important on the letter of award to Messrs Rodnab Construction Limited reference was made to the NDDC management as the approving authority for these contracts. However, these approvals could not be produced for team verification. It added that “purported additional works with different values were added to the contract sum from time to time that finally jerked up the worth to N16,222,492,843.76. No priced Bill of Quantities (BOQ) was presented.”
It explained that the “BOQ states the quality in terms of specifications and quantity of materials and their costs in project execution. In order to confer legitimacy to the huge expenditure outlay of the projects executed in tandem with government policy, the BOQ of the above-stated project should have been produced for audit review to satisfy Financial Regulation 109(d) which states that ‘the Auditor General shall carry out statutory function including value-for-money expended to ascertain the level of the economy, effectiveness and efficiency from government project.’ ”
Among other opaque transactions which give the impression that Rodnab was a vehicle for fraudulent transactions in the NDDC, the Auditor General’s report noted that some payments made to the company could not be defended. For instance, “Interim Payment Certificate No 2 in the sum of N3,059,661,429.45 was raised in favour of the contractor on the 18th October 2018. A perusal of the valuation report for this certificate showed that out of N978,877,500.00 released under the preliminary item of the project, N107,875,000.00 was said to be paid as part payment for an insurance policy. However, the insurance policy obtained, the property or persons covered by the policy and the premium paid by the contractor amounting to the N107,875,000 claimed in this certificate could not be traced.” Neither could it trace N230m certified paid for the provision of supervision vehicle, maintenance, driver, license insurance as “both the vehicle and evidence of its purchase were not available for verification.”
It concluded on the contract awarded to Rodnab Construction Limited that, “it was, therefore, difficult to carry out a proper evaluation of the job done for this purpose neither was certain that the value for the sum of N16,222,492,843.76 on the completion of Niger Delta Development Commission Headquarters Building merited the project.”
Rather than pursue further the query raised by the Auditor General’s office and demand the recovery of money illegally paid out for jobs not done, Chief Godswill Akpabio on becoming Minister of Niger Delta ordered that the company be paid in full even when it had not finished the project. This and the Auditor General’s report are the crux of the allegations of favouritism and disregard for financial rules that whistleblowers raised against Akpabio, the IMC and Rodnab.
Those in the know insist that as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Akpabio had engaged Rodnab Construction in the state and they have a more than a fiduciary relationship on which basis he bends and breaks the rules for the company in the NDDC. In fact, it was stated clearly that at the point Rodnab got the job from the NDDC, the headquarter building was about 65 percent complete and the Commission’s own valuers had estimated that the remaining job should cost no more than N6 billion. Yet it was given the job at N16.2 billion. That may explain why no Bills of Quantities were included in the contract award to Rodnab because the job is overpriced.
One of the issues raised by Rodnab was that the company was not queried by the OAGF, but it needs to be understood that the OAGF does not deal with contractors or third Persons but with MDAs, who have a duty to rectify the issues raised in the queries, including the recovery of overpayments to contractors, in this case, Rodnab. Going by the company’s statement, those queries were not raised with it as expected but glossed over by Akpabio and the IMC, perhaps because Akpabio was in a hurry to get his piece of the cake.
Of course, we are aware that Akpabio and the IMC have been spending the last few weeks generating and falsifying copious ‘records’ to cover up this and several other fraudulent transactions they have undertaken, which is why we ask the National Assembly committees to demand records from all relevant institutions including the OAGF and CBN in its quest to unravel the fraudulent dealings in the NDDC under Akpabio and his IMC.
Damian Nwikinaka is the Director of Research and Strategy