By Adelola Amihere
Angry contractors yesterday stormed the headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Abuja to demand for the payment of over N17 billion owed them.
They blocked the major entrance to the Minister’s office and threatened to take legal action against the Ministry.
The contractors who handled the 2018 procurement in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said they had picket the Ministry severally with the promise by the Minister, Sabo Nanono and Permanent Secretary Dr Mu’azu Abdulkadir to pay their money but unfortunately they are yet to be paid for the job.
Chants of “the Minister must go, the Permanent Secretary must go, pay us our money” filled the air as they rejected all entreaties from security agents who were on duty and also refused to vacate the entrance, insisting that either the Minister or the Permanent Secretary must come out and address them.
The leader of the group, Mr. Daniel Mozie lamented that some contractors have lost their lives due to their inability to bear the harassment from financial institutions from where they had borrowed money to fund the contract being that they were not given mobilization money.
He said that the actual sum being owed contractors who participated in the 2018 project was about N17 billion and not N48 billion being branded about. He said the N48 billion was actually the lump sum for the payment of 2017-2019 liability.
He said ministry has the tradition of using the budget release for current year to pay that of previous year for instance budget liability of 2018 was paid with 2019 budget, however the new Permanent Secretary, Dr Mu’azu came and distorted the arrangement which part of reason they are yet to be paid.
Mozie disclosed that part of reason the ministry was unable to pay 2018 contractors was because of the N7.5 billion spent in purchasing uncompleted building in the Federal Capital territory.
He also alleged that they are not being paid because the Directors are more interested in their cut, and given that the Permanent Secretary will soon retire by October, he will be more interested in his take home pay.
He alleged they learnt that some selected contractors who were paid from the 2019 budget actually paid five percent of their contract sum.
He said the current Permanent Secretary Dr Mu’azu Abdulkadir had promised to pay them the money from the 2019 budget but later rescinded saying the 2019 procurement performed 90-95percent and so there is no way they can pay the money.
One of the contractors who simply identified himself as Comrade Lucky said the contractors were awarded various Agric contracts by the ministry since 2018, and had completed the contracts, but the Ministry refused to pay them.
“We are here to take our destiny in our own hands, because since 2018 we were given the contracts we bided for, which we also executed. We have been coming here for payment with the certificate of completion issued to us by the same Ministry.
“The Ministry based on whatever consideration has done selective payments leaving some of us out. We have met with both the Minister and the Permanent Secretary, and nothing has been done. At a point, the Permanent Secretary promised to pay us, but later refused to pay.
“I have also heard that some of the Ministry officials have been demanding for percent from some of our colleagues, but as for me, nobody has asked me”.
Another contractor, Ms Ada Nwahiri, said she executed two borehole projects in Akwa Ibom state for the Ministry, and had been duly certified by relevant engineers of the Ministry.
Nwahiri noted that the bank where she obtained loan to execute the contract has been on her neck for repayment, and right now have no place to resort to.
“I executed two boreholes for the Ministry in Akwa Ibom since 2018. My own money they owe me is about N23 million. Since the new Permanent Secretary came, he has been promising to pay us for the past seven months, but has not fulfilled his promise,” she lamented