An advertisement placed by the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) in some Nigerian newspapers on Monday April 18, 2022, calling for bids for ‘2020 direct line capital and zonal intervention projects worth about N80 billion has raised eyebrows, Daily Trust on Sunday can report.
While observers have said it was an aberration for NBRRI to delve into capital projects which are outside their core mandate, the agency said they cannot reject constituency projects brought to them for execution by federal lawmakers.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that apart from NBRRI, many government MDAs have been running newspaper adverts calling for bids to execute contracts considered to be outside their core mandates.
In the advertisement under reference, the research institute (NBRRI) expressed its desire to execute some capital projects under the 2022 Budget Appropriation.
The scope of work, as contained in the advert, involves the construction of classroom blocks, skills centres/town halls, construction of earth roads, with hydraulic structures, asphalt overlay, solar street lights, motorized boreholes, and supply of goods, among other projects.
This has, however, raised questions as to why an agency of government with the core mandate of conducting research would be involved in executing capital projects.
NBRRI is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
Established in 1978 to carry out research and development activities into the many aspects of the industries in charge of building and construction of roads, its statutory function, according to our findings, is to conduct coordinated applied research and development into the many sections of the building and construction sectors of the economy.
Some of the areas in which NBRRI is mandated to conduct research, according to our findings, are the following: Local building and construction materials to determine the most effective and economic methods of their utilization; architectural design of buildings to suit Nigerian climatic conditions with respect to lighting, ventilation, thermal comfort, and humidity; the design and performance of functional units in buildings including electrical installations, plumbing, painting, drainage, ventilation, and air-conditioning system; local construction, foundation and earth-works for buildings and bridges, especially on problem soils.
In 1993, the mandate of the institute was said to have been further expanded to include Research and Development (R&D) into all possible aspects of materials of engineering which are used in relation to the construction industry, our findings reveal.
Questions trail bid for over 500 constituency projects
However, a scrutiny of the advertisement indicates that NBRRI invited bidding for over 500 projects in different parts of the country which were categorized into A, B, C, D and E.
While category ‘A’ sought pre-qualification for 48 projects, including works, goods, and services, category ‘B’ invited bids for 263 projects.
In the same vein, category C invited tenders for 12 projects while categories D and E sought to bid for 6 and 30 projects respectively.
Questions are being raised over the inclusion of 80 per cent of the projects which are constituency related and considered to be outside the mandate of the organization.
For instance, under category A, the research institute plans to execute projects believed to be outside its jurisdiction, among which is the erection of high-intensity solar street lights for surveillance in selected areas of Surulere, Lagos.
Besides calling for bidding to undertake a project for the development of a 150kw solar mini-grid for the off-national grid at Kwalita village, Dobi, Gwagwalada in the FCT, it also sought to undertake the provision of high-efficiency solar street lights within and around some schools and rural communities in North-Central, North-West, and South-West for security surveillance.
Other ‘strange’ projects NBRRI has called for bid to undertake include the procurement of freezers, fridges, generators, grinding machines, vulcanizing machines for youth empowerment in Anambra State, the provision of educational materials in Gindiri, Plateau State, as well as the supply of classroom furniture at Ojokoro, Ashafa, Irepodun communities.
Also, the agency plans to undertake projects for the supply of classroom furniture in the Aiyetoro-Ajeromi and Badagry communities, equipping of the Central Auditorium and Multi-Purpose Hall in Naki Gori and Yola Wakat in the North-Central zone, and the supply of empowerment as well as provision of empowerment items to women at Danmaje and other LGAs.
Similarly, NBRRI is being questioned over its bid to undertake a project for capacity building and empowerment of indigents on cassava value-chain by-products in Anambra North.
Under category ‘B’ as contained in the advert, which is tagged ‘technical and financial bid’, NBRRI invited bid to undertake a project for the installation of its (NBRRI) fabricated solar streetlight in Gombe Sought LGA, provision and installation of NBRRI fabricated integrated solar streetlights to communities in Awe, Doma, Keana Federal Constituency of Nasarawa State, as well as a contract for what it tagged ‘using NBRRI finished products on rural road construction technology in Ikenne LGA of Ogun State.’
While calling for a bid to undertake a project for the provision of health treatment, supply of drugs, and health insurance for the people of Ibadan, the NBRRI advert also sought to supply and install all-in-one solar street lights in all the six geopolitical zones, according to the tender.
This is in addition to seeking bids for the provision of health treatment, supply of drugs, and health insurance for the people of Ibadan, Oyo State, as well as the construction of solar-powered boreholes and solar-powered streetlights in Idemili North and South Federal Constituency of Anambra State.
Also advertised for bidding by NBRRI is a contract for the provision and installation of streetlights at Aiyetoro, Gbede, in Kogi West Senatorial District, and another for the supply and installation of 3-in-1 solar streetlights at various locations in Nasarawa South.
Similarly, the research institute intends to undertake the construction and provision of solar streetlights with lithium-ion battery, 10,000 lumens with PIR in Gunda, Garubla, Borno State, as well as the construction of solar-powered boreholes, the construction of an inner road at Pambara Extension 1 and 2, construction of culverts at Pambara extensions 1 and 2, Ushafa-Abuja.
It’s an aberration – Rafsanjani
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said it was an aberration for a research-based organisation like NBRRI to be undertaking constituency projects.
“Aside from being a negation of the mandate given to them, it is also a clear case of non-adherence to the Public Procurement law. If the National Assembly lawmakers are asking them to do a wrong thing as in this case, they should reject that and stay within their mandate.
“They (NBRRI) should remain within their research-based mandate and stop aiding corruption while the National Assembly should understand that there is a need for a legal framework to avoid diversion,” Rafsanjani said.
However, another source said the fact that the projects were advertised in the national dailies, meant the due process was followed. “Many government agencies go beyond their mandates to solve problems. I am not saying the NBRRI has the mandate to go into constructing roads or providing boreholes. I am also not saying they don’t have the mandate,” said the source who wished to remain unnamed.
We can’t stop lawmakers from domiciling constituency projects with us – NBRRI
The management of NBRRI said it cannot stop the National Assembly lawmakers from allocating their projects to them.
NBRRI’s Chief Information Officer, Peter Mashem, said: “We have tried several times in the NASS to tell them that this is not within our mandate but they still tell you ‘look, it has been signed already; it is an appropriation.”
He explained that the lawmakers started bringing constituency projects to them when they started promoting some of their technologies by building skills acquisition centres in order to create awareness and promote their activities for people to know what they were doing.
“That promotion of these skills acquisition centres was what these lawmakers began to see and say we can take these to our constituencies; that was how we got involved in all these. So, technically, it is our mandate because we were doing promotion which is good for us also.
“But I can assure you that we do a lot of checking to ensure that the money is utilized and the projects reach conclusion; it is not as if they (lawmakers) use us here. We ensure that the projects get to 100 percent conclusion.
“We supervise and issue out the money; if you come and get the bid, we give you part of the money to start with and when you come back with pictures, we give you the second batch,” Mashem said.
‘NASS not in a position to react’
When contacted, the Director of Information to the National Assembly, Agada Rawlings Emmanuel, said the matter falls within the purview of the political leadership who passed the bill to law.
“Accordingly, you can reach out to the spokesperson of the Senate for further necessary insights or at best, get to read through the Act, which is now a public document, and have a proper understanding of their mandates to draw necessary conclusions on the issues of your concerns.”
However, a senior official in the National Assembly, who preferred not to be named, said there was no relationship between the federal parliament and the execution of capital projects by government agencies except the constitutional role of oversight.
“The National Assembly has no business with any government agency’s capital projects other than oversight to ensure that Nigerians are not short-changed in whatever they do,” the official said.