Former Minister of Works and Housing, Chief Tony Anenih, has described as libelous his purported summons by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts over the N2.3 billion Nasarawa-Loko road “failed” contract, as reported in some national newspapers.
In a four-page letter to the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, dated November 29, 2012 with the title: “Re: Reps Summon Anenih over N2.3bn ‘Failed’ Contract,” Anenih said he felt pained that a member of the House of Representatives could make comments on issues as the one in question without adequate investigation.
He said even though he had not received any official summons from the House committee or any other investigative committee whatsoever, he considered the issues raised by the news report serious enough that he had decided to give a brief account of what he knew about the award of the contract for the reconstruction of the road while he was in office as minister of works.
Part of the letter reads: “In 2001, tenders were received from five major companies for the award of the contract as follows: Torno Internationale Nig. Ltd, which quoted N2,318,643,233.36 with 18 months duration; Micans Nig Ltd, which quoted N2,635,715,572.19 without specifying completion time; P&P Construction & Co Ltd, which quoted N3,013,890,450.18 without any duration; PW Nig Ltd, which quoted N4,407,274,447.02 with 18 months duration; and Rockbridge Construction Ltd, which quoted N4,486,567,064.60 with 24 months.”
He explained that a technical evaluation committee made up of senior engineers in the Highways department of the ministry found Torno’s tender of N2,318,643,233.36 to be most desirable and recommended that the contractor be considered for the award of the contract.
He said that thereafter, he forwarded a memo to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for consideration and approval, adding that at its 36th meeting on Wednesday, September 5, 2001, the council considered and approved the award of contract No 5092 for the reconstruction of Nasarawa – Loko road with Alushi Loop, to Messrs. Torno Internationale (Nig) Ltd at the contract sum of N2,318,643,233.36 with a completion period of 18 months.
Anenih noted 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. He added that also of note is that Torno’s parent company, Torno Internationale SPA, built Shiroro dam in 1990.
He further said that in the consideration of the memo by FEC, the President whole-heartedly supported bringing in new companies like Torno that have investor’s mind-set and whose tenders tended to be generally lower than those of older companies, with the view of bringing down the cost of road construction in Nigeria.
According to Anenih, “Following the signing of the relevant contract agreement between the Federal Ministry of Works and the contractor, and in accordance with relevant clause of the agreement, the contractor requested for advance payment of 25 percent of the contract sum.
“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.
“I must however emphasise that the events that led to the termination of the contract and the subsequent arbitration that followed all took place years after I had left the ministry. It is therefore my view that those who were in the ministry at the time should be able to provide the relevant explanation in the circumstance.
“Right Honourable Speaker, I feel pained that a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives under your able leadership should make comments on issues like this without adequate investigation. I advise the committee to carry out thorough investigation on this matter in the interest of justice and fairness.”