Sat, 5 Dec 2009

The reference to the mobilization payment of $250 million for the modernization contract is erroneou. It is also an incompetent remark that presumably only $75m was required to do the job!  The mobilization payment on the $8.3bn modernization contract was supposed to be 25 percent or $2.2 billion. Obasanjo did not make full payment. Instead, he paid $250 million and suggested that the contractor collected $2 billion from the Chinese government who had promised a soft loan to the federal government. Notwithstanding, it is not unusual for a contractor who is importing equipment into the country to request for payments offshore. How can you use $75 million to build a dual standard gauge track from Lagos to Kano, including stations, signalling and telecoms with no road-crossings?

As you well know, I don’t hold brief for CCECC as my technical partners are CANAC of Canada. I also do not believe that CCECC is the right company to do all of the work that is being undertaken on the network, but if we must criticize, we must do so from the standpoint of facts, otherwise the criticism is easily undermined and portrayed as part of a hidden agenda to discredit. In such circumstances, the culprit escapes unscathed.

My view is that the government has had to make a political decision with respect to the Chinese because the government has unravelled the $8.3 billion modernization contract. They therefore need to compensate the Chinese with something. What they did wrong was to embark on a charade called a public tender when they knew that they already knew whom they wanted to work with. There is a story to be told about the charade called our public procurement system. The BPP comes under immense political pressures to accept unwholesome practices in order to “move forward”. Value for money is not achieved as a result and we all lose. Worse, there are always credible rumour flying about every major procurement regarding the exchange of gifts and money. Bidders allegedly bribe civil servants and civil servants allegedly bribe BPP officials, etc.

Metro may be good enough to rehabilitate track, but none of the companies parading credentials in this bid could seriously be considered competent to provide a sustainable signalling and telecommunications system. What makes it worse is that the microwave telecommunications system is out of date and unreliable. It needs to be replaced by more modern systems.

CCECC, to all intents and purposes, is a Nigerian registered company so it is erroneous for Metro to describe it as a foreign company. Yes, its parent is foreign, but it has met our local requirements by registering its subsidiary in Nigeria, which bidded for the work.

Rowland Ataguba sent this reaction in from Abuja

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