Friday, April 23, 2021

New Senate Leader under fire over multimillion naira ‘contract scam’


Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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A civil society organization, Citizens Actions to Take Back Nigeria, CATBAN, has accused the new Senate majority leader, Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe) of involvement in constituency project scam.

A statement by CATBAN said Mr. Lawan’s alleged contract scam involving a project worth over N229 million was discovered when the group visited Yobe state on a fact-finding mission over the activities of the Presidential Initiative on the Northeast, PINE.

The statement added that during an inspection exercise in some parts of Nguru water channels, CATBAN came across a “rusty” signpost displaying details of a project titled “Construction of Marawaji flow control structures and Yobe states”.

“Members of that community informed us that the sign post was fixed in the year 2010 by a Contractor known as DOLIZ BROWN in company of Sen. Ahmed Lawan’s aides, but that ever since then the project had  been abandoned.

“Going through past Budgets from 2010 and some official documents in Government archives, we came across information that clearly pointed out that the contract titled, ‘construction of Marawaji flow control structures’ was awarded to Dolbiz Brown in November 2010 for an execution duration of 36 months, and  at a contract value of N229,714,513.00,” the group said.

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It added that though the contract, which purpose was to “control and divert flood to reclaim lands for agricultural use”, was important, the project was abandoned, prompting CATBAN to investigate the circumstances of the abandonment.

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“From our preliminary reports, the most disturbing aspect is that the Senator used his influence to ensure that the entire contract sum for the execution of the project was domiciled in the account of Federal Ministry of Water Resources then (a clear offence in itself), which we now believe must have been paid to the contractor. Further findings & submissions have revealed that the contractor only went to the site to erect the sign post, and subsequently made attempt to clear the access road to the project location. For doing just that, he first made a claim of 15% of the contract sum and later connived with the Senator to get paid on the job that was never executed,” the statement continued.

CATBAN then issued a 7-day ultimatum to Mr. Lawan to respond to three questions it posed to him over the project or face arrest and prosecution and recall from the senate.

“1. Sen. Ahmed Lawan must make public his explanations on why a Constituency Project under the Yobe North Senatorial Zone was abandoned for 7 years.

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“2. Between the Doliz Brow Nigeria Limited, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Senator Ahmed Lawan, Nigerians want to know how the money that was budgeted for that project was collected and shared, and how they came to the conclusion of abandoning the project.

“3. Why is it that even after this project was abandoned, the same project had continued to appear as a Constituency Project in our Annual National Budgetup until 2016 as “Ongoing”?, the group asked.

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“All of the above demands are expected to be responded to by Senator Ahmed Lawan within the next 7 days else, we will petition the relevant authorities with demand for his resignation as Senate Leader& subsequent arrest,  and also petition INEC while mobilizing his constituency for his recall from the National Assembly,” it concluded.

Responding to the allegations in a statement on Friday, Mr. Lawan denied involvement in the project, urging the group to beam it’s search light on those who were actually behind the failed project.

“While applauding the effort of the group in its ‘facts finding mission in respect to the ongoing corruption matter related to project execution under the Presidential Initiative on North East’, also urged CATBAN to beam its searchlight on those behind the abandoned water project.

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“Firstly, Distinguished Senator Ahmad Lawan wishes to disassicate himself, relatives and staff from the said contract, the company ‘DOLIZ BROWN’ because he has never been involved in the award of contract(s) or payment to anyone at any level.

“It is pertinent to state that Senator Lawan after perusing the article expressed keen interest in the outcome of the ongoing investigation by relevant agencies with the view to bring perpetrator(s) of the illicit act to book in no longer time.

“Distinguished Senator Ahmad Lawan acknowledged that the said project was awarded while serving in the House of Representatives.

“Prior to now, he had expressed grave concern and disappointment with the execution of that particular project and had followed all available channels to discover the reasons for its failure. It’s therefore gratifying that this group has discovered the facts.

“But at no given time throughout his eight years in the House of Representatives did he nominated anyone or contractor for execution of any project(s) within his federal constituency and Senatorial District,” the statement added.

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