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Reps probe agric ministry over N18.9bn bush clearing contracts

The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee has summoned officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development over N18.9 billion contracts awarded for land…

The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee has summoned officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development over N18.9 billion contracts awarded for land preparation, bush clearing and others during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Chairman of the committee, Wole Oke (PDP Osun), disclosed this on Tuesday at the resumed investigative hearing of the committee with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government based on audit queries by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation.

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Oke said the committee would carry out diligent investigation to find out the location of the projects and their importance to the country.

He said: “During the lockdown of the country as a result of COVID 19, some companies took contract worth about N18 billion for bush clearing from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for land preparation, rehabilitation of soil plant lab and others. We cannot shave their head in their absence.

“So, we have invited them to come and give us their own side by responding to the issues and show us the places they are supposed to have cleared. They have to take us to the land they cleared.

“We have invited the Ministry of Agriculture and they have made submission. But some of our members whose constituencies these projects were supposed to be domiciled doubted the existence of these projects.

“We have invited the companies that got the contract to come and tell this committee where and when the jobs were executed.

“We will wait till the end of hearing today to see if they will appear. If they are not here, we will have to do the needful to get them to come”.

 Meanwhile, the committee has ordered the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to furnish it with the details of 20 companies involved in the contract.  

This followed the appearance of only two out of the 20 companies summoned by the committee alongside officials of the ministry on Wednesday.  

The two companies that appeared before the committee were Easy Construction Company LTD and NUKAAG Ventures Ltd, represented by Johnson Philip and Taiwo Idowu, respectively.  

The committee was angry that the chief executives and managing directors of the companies did not appear in person but sent representatives. 

The chairman of the committee directed the clerk of the committee to write to the Registrar of the CAC for information on the 20 companies, including the year of incorporation, addresses as well names of the owners and shareholders among others.

“We are not concerned about who won the contracts, what we are after is to deter value for money paid out and the sites of the projects, and we will carry that mission to the letter. 

“The Clerk should also write the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, to finish the Committee about the financial status of the Companies,” he said.