The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, on Thursday faulted the House of Representatives’ position that the Rural Electrification Agency fraudulently awarded N42bn power projects in nine Nigerian universities and one teaching hospital in breach of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

Contrary to the House position, the minister stated that there was no evidence of fraud.

He said all that was required would have been “a simple letter” requesting his ministry or the agency to clarify issues that agitated lawmakers about the projects.

Fashola had appeared by the House Joint Committees on Power/Procurement at the National Assembly in Abuja to answer questions in connection with the projects.

He appeared in company with the Managing Director of the REA, Damilola Ogunbiyi, and other top officials of the ministry.

The committees, jointly chaired by Mr. Dan Asuquo and Mr. Wole Oke, got the mandate of the House to probe the “Fraudulent Award of contracts amounting to N42bn on Rural Electrification Schemes for some Federal Universities.”

The committees are also investigating the “Status of Fast Power Programme Accelerated Gas Production for Power Generation by the Federal Ministry of Power.”

The value of the fast power programme is $186m.

It was a charged atmosphere where Fashola and lawmakers engaged one another in a shouting match intermittently.

The minister and the REA officials were embittered that their image was tarnished by the use of the word “fraudulent” by the House, an indication that their integrity had been called to question.

Responding to questions, Fashola said the House was wrong by saying that there was a N42bn contract for university electrification projects.

“There is no contract awarded for N42bn. I got an approval from the Federal Executive Council in December for N38.9bn.

“We are obliged to pay 15 per cent of the amount in compliance with the PPA. So, in the budget, there was a provision of N9.5bn,” he said.

The minister explained that the idea was to use the universities as the “anchor” for supplying electricity to the rural communities where they were located for the dual purpose of serving both the universities and the communities.

He went down memory lane to state that the projects were inherited by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, having understood their relevance.

The minister informed the committees that in all, 39 universities and one teaching hospital were to be the beneficiaries.

He said discussions were held with the beneficiaries, where various MoUs were signed before public procurement bids were initiated.

The minister gave more details, “In 2017, we proposed N32bn (out of the N38.9bn) in the budget and requested N20bn to start all the 39 projects.

“However, the appropriation we got was N9bn and I remember that I asked the Chairman, Committee on Power, why he did that and he said I could not get everything I asked for.”

He went further to state that all procurement processes were followed, including writing the Bureau of Public Procurement to seek an approval for selective tendering for bids.

The minister added that the BPP approved the request after explanations were made that the government wanted quality work and listed the selected firms that would tender bids.

He gave their names as General Electric; Siemens; Sterling and Wilson; M.West Africa; and W. Energy.

Out of the list, Fashola disclosed that only two of the firms got approval to handle the first phase of nine projects in nine universities and one teaching hospital.

Among the beneficiary universities are those in Sokoto, Makurdi, Lagos, Ile-Ife, Bauchi, Awka, and Kano.

“So, emphatically, there is no fraud. Let me also tell the committee that a lot of pressure has been brought on my members of staff to bring in secondary interests and they have all said no”, Fashola added.

However, Oke and Asuquo insisted that there were PP breaches, saying that the committees must look into the case further.

When he was asked whether the ministry had stopped the projects in compliance to the House resolution, Fashola replied that the letter sent to him did not indicate that he should halt the execution of the projects.

He produced a copy of the letter and read the content to prove that no part of the document suggested there was a directive to stop the projects.

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