culled from NEWSWATCH, October 16, 2006
Chimaroke Nnamani, Enugu State Governor, chides critics of his administration and says his hardwork has made the State a better place.
As a scientist, Chimaroke Nnamani, Governor of Enugu State, is a very analytical person. He is capable of discerning the good and the bad sides of an issue, no matter how minute the details are. And it was with the same attitude that he views the recent report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Enugu State. He believes that in every such report there are truths embedded in it. That is what, he said, the EFCC’s report on his state has revealed. For example, even though the EFCC report did not identify specific projects executed by the governments, it confirmed that those projects were indeed executed.
The projects include construction of Federal Government roads, which had hitherto, been denied by the opposition. There is the permanent site of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT, with 165 buildings built on 600 hectares of land donated by six communities, the ESUT Teaching Hospital, Parklane, GRA, Enugu and College of Medicine, including three hostels, each of them built with en-suite facilities.
The fully completed and equipped dual complexes have a clinical laboratory, a pharmacy block, 1,200-seater lecture auditorium and administrative blocks. There is the Ebeano Tunnel Crossing, which is the first of its kind in Nigeria. There is provision for a standby power generating set. For the security of the tunnel, a police post is sited beside its entrance. Nnamani also completed road network Enugu and the state-of-the-
Another project is the international conference centre, where Nnamani plans to hold pre-inauguration banquet and post-inauguration luncheon for his successor.
Apart from the completed projects, the Loma Linda Housing Estate, another brainchild of Nnamani, is gradually taking shape with the extent of work done outweighing the work left. It is designed to provide 324 flats to Enugu residents.
The summary of the findings said that EFCC “considers road projects reasonably managed, though huge variations in project work were observed.” The commission said it engaged the services of two very versatile professional engineers and included them in the team of detectives for a three-day project verification exercise. All the projects inspected and evaluated were handled by Marlum Construction Company Limited, Olyton Nigeria Limited and Tramie Nigeria Limited from 2003 to date. The projects of the last two companies were supervised by the first. In all, a total of 24 projects were listed for inspection. Fourteen of these projects were road projects while the remaining 10 were building projects.
The commission said that due to time constraints, absence of necessary contract documents for some projects and the level of details involved in the inspection and evaluation exercise, only 20 projects were inspected. Documents of projects not inspected were evaluated based on standard prices, the commission said. The experts’ valuations were compared with the values placed on these projects by the government to determine over or under valuation. Consequently a net over-valuation of N2.4 billion and N400 million were traced to buildings and road projects, respectively. Among other things, the EFCC report also said that five of the 10 road projects inspected had attained between 98 percent and 100 percent completion while the remaining five were at different infancy stages of between 1 percent and 20 percent. EFCC said that “one of the road projects was considered reasonably priced while another one was observed to be under priced.” The remaining 12 projects were adjudged
over valued at both award and certification stages and had, therefore, been recommended to be appropriately re-valued. Eight of the 10 building projects were confirmed to have attained between 70 percent and 95 percent stages of completion while the remaining two were at 28 percent and 31 percent stages of completion. It said generally, pricing of the building projects and certification of work done were observed to be on the high side and had, therefore, been recommended to be specifically revalued downwards. At the same time, EFCC said the “performance quality of nine building projects and twelve road projects out of 24 were adjudged satisfactory and the contractors commended.”
Reacting to the report, Nnamani said: “We support the anti-corruption mechanism, not just through EFCC but also through ICPC and other modalities that will increase public enlightenment and sensitization. It’s exactly 10 months since EFCC came to Enugu State. When they came we did welcome them…We saw the report they came out with. We maintain after careful study, reading and advice and good counsel on the report, we felt the report is a complete exoneration of the government of Enugu State,” Nnamani said.
According to him, “Enugu State has gone through that process which we regard and describe as a self cleansing or process of critical consciousness. The EFCC sent experts here, who spent about three fleeting days and looked at about 70 percent of the entire project and came out with numbers, what I describe as a price variance between the price of their experts an that of our contractors”. He said that these contracts were awarded after due process, which included advertising for the bidding process, going through the bidding process, award and publication of award. “There are various variables that could determine the contract price. One, cost of energy. Two, the site itself – how close is it to materials like laterite and chippings? The cost of labour and even weather and climatic changes. Even factors such as soil testing, geodetic survey can affect the price,” he said, adding that “based on that, I do not think that a price variance of N2.8 billion of an over 30
billion contract is statistically significant, especially when it is still unconfirmed.” This is because the valuations were done by EFCC experts. The variation could differ if the experts are to be government expert or that of the contractors. “In a system where people are inflating contracts by 50 percent, 100 – 200 percent and you have unconfirmed price variance of less than 10 percent, I am not worried about it. They talked about a price variance. That is still subject to confirmation,” Nnamani said. He said that his interest is that the contract went through due process, noting that “the contractors are contesting the price variance. The consultants are contesting it. Government is contesting it based on the information we have on the ground.”
Nnamani described as ridiculous EFCC’s notion that he is worth N50 billion. “The issue of the net worth of a governor is completely wrong. It’s something you don’t even give a second thought. It’s ridiculous. I can’t even imagine a situation where an official of government of any state in this country, much less Enugu, will be worth US$400 million,” he said.
On the issue of his relations in business, Nnamani said: “We made it clear that relatives who are adults under a democratic setting can engage in whichever business they choose. The bottom line is to make sure that government money is not involved in these businesses.” He said such businesses were welcomed in Enugu State as they contribute to the economy. “We would rather have it here than have them in other states of Nigeria or have them in America or in the UK. The bottom line is that there is no evidence whatsoever that there is government money in these businesses. I know there is no government money in these businesses”, he said.
Nnamani also reacted to the issue of local governments and said, based on the constitution and also based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, that local government issues are purely state issues. “Local government funds distributed through state or local government joint accounts are supervised by the House of Assembly through its committee on local government,” he said.
The EFCC also touched on the recovery of funds refunded to the state government for implementing federal government projects. On this Nnamani has this to say: “It’s also exoneration because remember they said we didn’t do any federal projects – that was what the opposition was saying. So for you to agree that we were refunded and that there are federal projects indeed, that is a compliment to the government of Enugu State.” He said that the funds, just like the allocations, went into accounts and were disbursed and spent based on budgetary appropriations. “Then, of course, I said it’s exoneration. Remember that the case of opposition is that these contracting companies are owned by the governor of the state. But you can see that it is not the case,” Nnamani pointed out.
The report did not identify the governor as the owner of these contracting companies. In addition, the report said the jobs were well done in terms of performance, that the contractors did well. “They even went further to say that some of the contracts were under priced. But while they went to details on overpricing, they did not go to any detail in under-pricing. Maybe if they had got the details of under-pricing, they would have come out with a net,” the governor said. “Go read it. Re-read it. Study it. Interpret it. Those who are concerned are more likely to comb it, to look at it. We have done that, we have consulted and as far as we are concerned, the report is an exoneration of the Enugu State Government,” he said.
Perhaps what gives Nnamani confidence is the benchmark of performance of states against international best practices by National Planning Commission, NPC, and supported by World bank, European Commission Delegation to Nigeria, British Department of International development, DFID, United Nations Development Programme, UNDP and United States Agency for International Development, USAID. Of the 36 states assessed, Enugu State came first with a total score of 56.12 percent in 2005. A breakdown of the figure saw the state scoring 16 percent on policy, 18.45 percent for fiscal management, service delivery, 11.75 percent while it got 9.92 percent on communication and transparency. Federal Capital territory came second with 46.10 while Osun came third with 44.85 percent.
Nnamani’s aides also came out strongly to defend him. Dan Shere, secretary to the state government, in a three-paged statement published in advertorial said it was important to point out to Nigerians that the wild claim that the governor had netted for himself over N50 billion “suspected” to be taken from state coffers between 1999 and 2003, failed to take into account the actual, overall earnings of Enugu State, which stand from June 1999 to the end of 2005 at N70,696,694,
Shere said it was worthy to state that Enugu State started the glorious democratic season in 1999 with about one hundred million naira monthly allocation, then progressed to about N400 million, later N800 million, in subsequent months before we arrived this stage when Enugu graduated into about one and half billion Naira monthly. He said: “We have, about this day, done over seven years in the democratic governance of Enugu State and by experience, we cannot but laugh at the preposterous pretension of sweeping assumptions, powered by personal indignation and total disregard for simple standards of evaluation. We, therefore, feel compelled to point out that if at any point, this EFCC claim is to be considered – that is aside the injury of pre-judicial publicity that comes in its wake, the point must be made that it eroded every possibility of any credibility by the confessed style, mode and tactics of investigation.” “For the avoidance of doubt, we want to state quite
categorically that the EFCC report, as presented on the floor of the Senate of the Federal Republic, September 27, 2006 and promoted in the scarcely disguised media launch, could not have been the report of the investigation which were conducted in Enugu State,” he said.
Stating that the EFCC report established the trend of deliberate but selective exposure, Shere gave kudos to the commission in such areas it owned up to the facts on the ground. One such instance, he said was the admission that in investigating Enugu State government, it observed price variances of N2. billion in building construction projects and N400 million in road projects. Strangely, though, the commission’s “versatile professional engineers” refused to add up to make the fact that these could come directly from the equally admitted gap of 30 percent of the projects which, for time constraint, they could not investigate.”
Shere expressed surprise that the commission deliberately missed regional, space and time factors in cost variances, especially when such whistle-stop visits would naturally miss the schedule of the basic rates of construction materials in 2002 compared to August 2006, when they visited Enugu. According to him, “it is against this background of lack of any kernel of indictment or evidence of malfeasance that we view the overall report on Enugu as a confirmatory declaration which is yet to be picked in-between lines of what promoters of celebrated exposure clip on their chest as the prize of the century,” he said.
He said the fact should not be lost on Nigerians that in hastily storming the public arena to yell at Enugu State government and others, EFCC is refusing to accept that it has no case against those investigated, since this pre-judicial, pre-trial publicity, has knocked off the commission’s chances of pursuing strong prosecution in the courts of the land.
Igbonekwu Ogazimorah, Commissioner of Information, said that the ECCC report is a confirmation that Enugu is working. “The aim of the whole thing is to use falsehood to rubbish the governor. It has not affected the image of the governor. The report itself is vacuous,” Ogazimorah said, adding that “the investigation is amateurish. What EFCC did is guesswork and political hack job.” According to him, “The EFCC report is a confirmation that the government is doing very, very well. It shows there is nothing against us because there is nothing.”
Luke Mammel, an engineer and special adviser to Nnamani on Project Development and Implementation, pointed out the discrepancy in the EFCC’s report, which, he said, had no full application of standards and control of solid professionals. Mammel questioned EFCC’s engagement of “versatile professional engineers”, saying that one might wish to know the background of the engineers. “As professional engineers,” do they have cognate training and experience in the construction cost consultancy? One wonders how these “versatile professional engineers” could come to such conclusions as they reached in a whistle-stop three-day visit.”
On the allegation of lack of co-operation from the commissioner and staff of the ministry of works as alleged by the EFCC, Mammel said it was obvious the experts lacked what to report because the inspections were jointly carried out, as the contractors were represented along side the client’s representatives and all the documents tendered by contracting firms were the same documents issued by the Ministry of Works or its consultants on the projects; which in any case applied in all the projects.
The question is, were there prior notification for such exercise either through the commissioner for works or the contracting companies before the visiting team came calling? “It still remains a surprise to us that the same commission which expressed satisfaction and commended the activities of the contracting companies, still considered it proper and in fashion, to freeze the contractor’s project accounts since June, 2006, without minding if the jobs are frustrated or not. It is more curious that working with “versatile professional engineers” as the commission did, it ignored the implication in a contractor leaving site and mobilizing again, which every experienced builder knows can be very, very disruptive in cost, execution and eventual delivery.”
In his first four years in office, Nnamani concentrated his attention on providing roads, water electricity and health facilities for his people. The state now has 56 rural health centres and 24 cottage hospitals. In his current and final term, he is concentrating on legacies – building and completing most gigantic projects he embarked upon. And the projects have endeared him to his people who could not care less about the EFCC’s report.