Contractors halt operation in Agric Ministry for several hours over N17B debt

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  • demand sack of minister, perm sec
  • threaten legal action against the ministry

Some contractors on Friday stormed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development over alleged non-payment of their N17 billion debt incurred from the execution of various projects in 2018.

The protesters who held banners with inscriptions such as: β€œPermanent secretary must go; Our Projects won the election for PMB”, We are dying of hunger” blocked the main entrance to the ministry main building, thereby preventing visitors and staff from gaining access to their offices.

Denied entrance into the minister’s office by security operatives, they demanded for the sack of the Minister, Sabo Nanono and the Permanent Secretary, Mu’azu Abdulkadir.

Coordinator of the group, Mr. Chidi Kanu told journalists that they were awarded various agric contracts since 2018 and had completed the projects but the ministry refused to pay them.

He said upon verification, it was discovered that over 98 per cent of the budgetary allocations for that year were released to the ministry but were diverted.

But the director of the press in the ministry, Theodore Ogaziechi had told The Guardian that the ministry agreed to carry out a verification exercise on whether the projects were actually executed before they could get paid.

Ogaziechi added that the delay in payment was as a result of some of the projects not completed in the year under review.

Confronted with the ministry’s position, Kanu said most of them completed the projects before March last year, with Certificate of Completion issued to them in May and June.

He explained that they had written series of letters to anti-graft agencies, National Assembly, Accountant General’s Office, Head of Service but didn’t receive any reply but for the query issued to the former permanent secretary, Dr Mohammed Bello.

He said the action of both the minister and permanently secretary does not conform with the anti-corruption crusade of the president.

He said: β€œWe worked since 2018 and delivered based on the contract they gave us. They used our projects to campaign for this government and at the end of it all, they said there is no money.

β€œWe are asking President Muhammadu Buhari to come to our rescue. We cannot pay school fees anymore and our landlords are disturbing us for rents. We are helpless. We had several meeting with the permanent secretary and he promised us that he is going to pay us but rather, he diverted the money and awarded fresh contracts to his cronies. They are even about to award fresh contracts for 2020 without paying us.

β€œA high powered probe should be initiated to probe the ministry.
We have been coming here and the last time we came, the permanent secretary told us he is not going to pay us. We are also considering the option of going the legal way”, he said.

Another contractor, Tajudeen Abdullahi, said they completed the projects without being paid any mobilisation fee.

According to him, he was contracted to dig boreholes, supply grains, corn harvesters, among other agric-related projects

β€œThey have been deceiving us. We decided to protest because we had no option. The current permanent secretary stopped the payment because he was not involved in the process.”, he alleged

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