Matawalle’s administration embezzled N6.7bn from abandoned cargo airport — Gov. Dauda

Governor Dauda Lawal has revealed that the immediate past administration of Bello Matawalle embezzled billions of Naira from the Zamfara Airport, which was subsequently abandoned.

The Government accused the previous administration of a dubious transaction of N6,775,949,561.50 for an abandoned Cargo Airport project in the state capital.

In a statement on Thursday, issued in Gusau, the Spokesperson to the Governor, Sulaiman Bala Idris, disclosed that the government was shocked to discover the previous administration’s substantial financial mismanagement of the abandoned Zamfara Cargo Airport project.

He added that Governor Lawal’s administration will bring those responsible for financial recklessness to justice.

The statement read in part, “Upon assuming office, Governor Dauda Lawal, to determine the progress of work done and the corresponding value to monies paid to contractors directed for the assessment and identification of the best approach to timely completion of the project constituted a five-member committee for that task and to further review among other things pre-contract activities.

“The committee’s report disclosed, amongst other things, that Avic International Engineering Limited provided engineering and architectural designs. The report revealed that the contractors produced contract bills of quantities without the input of the relevant departments of government in vetting the designs, specifications, and bills. In contrast, contract documents were unavailable at the time of contract award.

“The contract was awarded to Avic International Engineering Limited vide contract notifications No. FGPC/SEC/NOT/2019/055 dated 15th May 2019 in the sum of N11,551,899,123.00 0nly. The committee also found that the preliminary approvals from the relevant regulatory bodies in the aviation industry were not obtained before the commencement of work on the project.

“A consultant, BJ Aerotronic Limited, was employed to take charge of the project and to obtain all the necessary approvals from the relevant regulatory bodies only after work had commenced on the site. Payments were made to the contractors without valuation and essential certification from the relevant Agencies of Government.

“Therefore, the committee suggests discrepancies between the contract Bills of Quantities and engineering, architectural designs and specifications.

“Total net payments made to the contractors were 30 percent as Advance Payment of the sum of N3,465,569,736.90 by Ministry of Finance (MOF) on June 19, 2020; the sum of N2,310,379,824.60 by Ministry of Finance (MOF) was again paid as the second instalment on June 19, 2020, in the name of a loan, (a term not familiar in governments’ contract procedures and management’); another payment of N825,000,000.00 by Ministry of Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs (MLGCA) was made as the third instalment on October 25, 2021.

“These payments amounted to N6,600,989,561.50. After which N125,000,000.00 was paid to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on January 31, 2022, while BJ Aerotronic Limited was paid N50,000,000.00 on January 31, 2022, supposedly as a consultancy fee.

“Of all the payments, only the advance payment had payment vouchers, with mandates available in the other payments. There were no indications of any deductions for Value Added Tax (VAT), Withholding tax and other taxes.

“The administration of former Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle made a total payment of N6,775,949,561.50 on the abandoned project whose completion level was less than 20 percent.

“Furthermore, evaluations carried out by four different independent firms of experts and relevant agencies of government have shown that the total value of work done is N2,249,636,040.73, representing 19.47 percent overall.

“It is our finding that the payments made to the contractors were not only incommensurate with the level of work executed but grossly incomparable with work done.

“The committee concluded that the contractors were no longer interested in executing and completing the project, taking into cognisance the fraudulent ways the project has been carried out, because the project’s life span had elapsed, and the contractor did neither attempt nor show any intention to apply for an extension of time to continue with the work.

“After all the evaluations carried out by the four reputable consultants, the contractors are supposed to refund the Zamfara State government over N4,526,313,520.77.

“As a responsible government, we will continue to pursue all cases of mismanagement and ensure that what rightfully belongs to Zamfara is returned for the benefit of its people, and anyone involved in the mismanagement is brought to book.”

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