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AMAECHI ORDERS CCECC TO AWARD CONTRACTS TO HANDPICKED CONTRACTORS, GIVES PRICES

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The minister, known for violating procurement rules, directs the Chinese firm to give supply contracts at determined rates to companies he selected.

In what some officials have described as an unprecedented violation of Nigeria’s procurement laws, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has ordered construction giant CCECC Nigeria Limited to award contracts to some local companies he hand-picked.

Mr Amaechi gave the directive to the Chinese construction company in a letter exclusively obtained by this newspaper, dated October 14, 2021.

The letter was signed on behalf of Mr Amaechi by J.A Yusuf, Director of Rail Transport Services at the transportation ministry.

The contracts are in connection with the Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project covering the Lagos-Kano and Kaduna-Kano sections.

According to the letter, the minister hand-picked the companies in accordance with what Mr Yusuf described as “Local Content Policy of the Nigerian government”.

Titled ‘Local Content Policy on Construction Materials and Equipment’, the ministry claimed it received Expression of Interest from the various companies it listed in connection with the railway project. The ministry further directed the construction company to invite the hand-picked companies listed in the letter for contractual engagement.

Controversial ‘Quotation’
Aside from submitting the list of hand-picked companies to the construction firm, Mr Amaechi, through the Ministry of Transportation, attached to the letter a quotation showing the expense of purchasing materials in the local market. The quotation also listed all the companies and the specification and unit of materials they are expected to supply to the construction company.

In addition, the quotation detailed the quantity of materials each company is expected to supply, as well as the ‘market prices’ of the materials. Quick checks conducted on the status of the companies showed that they are domiciled mostly in Kano, Kaduna and Port Harcourt.

Insiders at CCECC have expressed worry over the controversial letter, adding that it is in contravention of the nation’s procurement laws. A source told this newspaper that CCECC management is disturbed by the development, and has found it quite difficult to deal with.

Fuzzy ‘Local Content Policy’ document?
For months, PREMIUM TIMES searched for the ‘Local Content Policy on Construction Materials and Equipment’ referenced by Mr Amaechi through the transportation ministry in its letter to CCECC, but this newspaper could not find any such document.

Officials at the transport ministry declined to speak on the issue when contacted, and they failed to acknowledge if there was any such policy document.

Aliyu Abudukadir, the Director of Corporate Service at the Nigerian Society of Engineers, told PREMIUM TIMES that no one has any idea of any such policy document on the construction materials and equipment

“What we know, which is in the public domain, is Executive Order 5,” he said, adding that the order was signed in 2018.

“Probably that’s what you are referring to but the policy document on the construction materials, I don’t know.”

The Executive Order 5, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, gives preference to Nigerian indigenous organisations in the award of contracts in either construction or manufacturing.

Government sources told PREMIUM TIMES that no policy or executive order could have given Mr Amaechi the express authorisation to unilaterally hand-pick contractors for a private company engaged by the government.

Companies selected for government contracts are expected to go through the process of competitive bidding.

Amaechi’s Record of Violations
Mr Amaechi has a record of violating the nation’s procurement laws. At various times, he has got himself mired in arbitrary conduct in his handling of procurement processes.

In a number of contractual agreements involving the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mr. Amaechi has been found to have recklessly violated extant rules.

In one case, he directed the NPA to restore a boat service contract with logistics giants, Intels, in disregard for an ongoing open bidding exercise in which the company had been disqualified. In its intervention, the BPP flayed Mr Aamechi’s position and warned that a monopoly could endanger the nation’s bidding system.

In a related concern around the NPA’s port dredging contract, Mr. Amaechi directed that contracts be extended for a year beyond original expiration dates instead of a bidding exercise, which the BPP had approved.

Last year, a PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation showed how President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Amaechi approved a huge national security-sensitive maritime contract to a medical company in a process the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) said was “embarrassing” and illegal.

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