Many companies awarded contracts by the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) cannot be located, a senator alleged yesterday.
Senator Shehu Sani, Chairman, Senate adhoc committee on mounting humanitarian crisis in the North East, told reporters in Abuja that over 20 companies were involved in the phony contracts.
Of the about N1.3 billion jobs awarded, the most controversial is the N220 million contract for the removal of wild grass and provision of 115 hectares of simplified irrigation in Yobe State, awarded to Rholavision Engineering Limited. The firm is linked to Lawal.
The Kaduna Central lawmaker, who described the development as “strange”, said that the inability of his committee to trace the addresses of the firms reinforced its desire to interact with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir David Lawal, who headed PINE.
Sani said: “Meanwhile, you should understand that we are not investigating the SGF alone. We are investigating contracts that were awarded under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) and over 20 companies were involved.
“But something very strange is the fact that some of these companies in these contracts we couldn’t actually trace their addresses.
“We went there but we couldn’t find them. So the option before us is that it is easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for us to find some of these names here.”
He added: “One of the persons we invited happens to be the SGF and his invitation followed the events that came after the interim report was tendered before the Senate and that was in his own claim that he was not given a fair hearing.
“He sent a second letter asking for another opportunity to appear before us and he sent a letter to the committee through the leadership of the Senate and that letter overrides any other rumours you may have heard before.
“Like all other persons, I read it on the pages of the newspapers that he went to court but we have never been served any letter on any legal action as far as we are concerned .
“Before then, we also received a letter from the MD of Rolavision who said he was bereaved but the official letter is the one we received from the SGF, which he signed himself and he graciously told us that he needs a new date, based on the fact that the date that was set for today was not convenient for him. So that was the reason I tendered the letter in plenary.
“We need to be meticulous because reputations and lives of people are concerned and it is on that background that on the final phase of the report, we have to do a thorough job.
“We have our papers on the ground and we are set to invite all those persons. It was supposed to be today but, of course, it couldn’t happen. We assure the members of the public through the media that we are going to announce the next date for the public hearing.
“But we are assuring Nigerians that we will discuss with the Senate to give us a convenient date that he is going to come because he is the head of this PINE and the companies that are associated with these contracts are known.
“But we said we appreciate his humility due to the fact that what was stated on the pages of the newspapers was not correct.
“In this time when there is a frosty relationship between the parliament and appointees of this government, I believe that this is a new phase – signing the letter himself, sending it to us, requesting for a new date. I think he has been humble and we are going to consider his request.
“Well, the most important thing is that we have received the letter before the hearing and he has apologised to others for the inconveniences caused, but the issue is that we can’t afford to talk to others without him here because it would amount to simply coming out with a second report for which we will be accused of not giving some people a fair hearing.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, said the insinuation of friction between the Executive and the Legislature was false.
Enang told reporters that the Executive had great respect for the institution of the Senate.
He said: “Let me state that the executive has great respect for the institution of the Senate and the distinguished senators themselves and that is why the SGF personally wrote and signed the letter requesting for a rescheduling of the meeting and not saying he would not come.
“He is requesting for a rescheduling and the letter has been delivered and presented before the committee.
“Once again, I say that we have great respect for the institution of the Senate, the National Assembly and indeed the legislature.
“I am sure you haven’t had any heat about the 2017 budget because the executive and the legislature are working together.
“I just want to say that what is happening is that the political space is active, not that it is tense.
“It is active and showing that the legislature is concentrating on its work. The executive is being put under pressure in respect of what it should do and this is what is expected of the legislature under a democracy.
“So, Nigerians should accept that there is nothing abnormal in this situation. It has been hotter than this at other times, but we are doing everything to make sure that the temperature doesn’t get higher than this.”