Wednesday, 21 November 2012

We’ve not been notified of contract cancellation — Bi-Courtney

                      Dr. Wale Babalakin, owner of Bi-Courtney Nig Ltd

Bi-Courtney Highway Services has said it has not been formally notified of the decision of the Federal Government to cancel its concession agreement to reconstruct the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Reacting to Monday’s termination of the agreement, the company said, “We have not been formally informed about the cancellation of the concession agreement and the process that led to it.”

It said in a public announcement, “We would like to thank all parties to this transaction, all shareholders and other stakeholders for their belief in the Nigerian spirit, which propelled them to participate and invest heavily in this epoch-making project. We also want to thank all Nigerians who have been with us on this fascinating, yet tortuous, journey.

“We have no doubt that the issues would be resolved in a manner that would rekindle the Nigerian spirit of enterprise, scholarship, courage, and persistence.”

However, a Presidency source justified the cancellation of the agreement, but some stakeholders are raising some fundamental posers for the Federal Government.

Some of the notable conditions breached by Bi-Courtney, according to the Presidency source, were its failure to submit copies of the construction contract and failure to submit copies of the financial agreement as provided in the agreement.

The concessionaire was also accused of “failing to submit copies of the Operations and Maintenance contract as stated in the agreement; failure to carry out construction work despite access to the site since September 2009; and abandonment of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the site, among others.”
While announcing the termination of the concession agreement on Monday, the Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, said the action was taken because the Bi-Courtney consortium had consistently flouted the rules of engagement by failing to execute the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer project as stipulated in the agreement.

He also announced that the Federal Government had appointed two construction firms, Julius Berger Plc and RCC Nigeria Limited, to handle the reconstruction of the 125-kilometre road.
While Julius Berger is to handle the section from Lagos to the Shagamu interchange, RCC will handle the section from the interchange to Ibadan.

However, sources familiar with how Public-Private Partnership infrastructure projects operate faulted the government’s action and warned of severe consequences.

One of the sources told our correspondent in Lagos on Tuesday that the Federal Government did not fulfil its obligations to the concessionaire, noting that these could have aided the performance of the firm.

The source, who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the project, said the Federal Government failed to secure the Right of Way for the concessionaire and also failed in putting in place State Support Agreement for the states that the road passed through to work with Bi-Courtney.

It will be recalled that the Lagos, Ogun and Oyo State governments have opposed the granting of the concession to the firm.
Another source said, “The Federal Government has no power to award such a huge procurement contract without following the Public Procurement Act.

“There was no competitive bidding by interested companies for the project contrary to the provisions of the Act; no contract sum was announced; it did not even pass through the Federal Executive Council. Where are the contractors’ designs? Are they going to follow that done by Bi-Courtney? If yes, are they going to pay off the concessionaire? These are some of the questions begging for answer.”

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, did not pick calls put through to his telephone line, nor responded to text messages sent by our correspondent.
However, the Head, Communications Unit, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Mr. Olugbenga Odugbesan, said the agency had nothing to do with the project again since the Federal Government had revoked the concession agreement.

“It is no longer under our regulatory purview because ours is a Public-Private Partnership agency. The project does not belong to us,” he said.
Our correspondent gathered at the Ministry of Works in Abuja that the contracts given to Julius Berger and RCC were not the usual ones, and would not follow the ministry’s normal budgeting process.
Instead, the source explained the road was being treated as a “Presidential Intervention Project,” and that only the Presidency could give its value.

Culled From Punch

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