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PRODA: How Gbajabiamila wanted payment of N11 billion for unexecuted projects – Chairman

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Members of the House of Representatives have been accused of financial sleeze at the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu a Parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

The financial sleeze which is in billions was made possible through domestication of zonal constituency projects which they input during annual budgets.

Currently, the management of the agency and the House of Representative members are locked in altercation over unexecuted zonal intervention projects, but which the lawmakers want full payment against the Public Procurement Act, 2007, a legal instrument put in place by the National Assembly to ensure due process.

The lid was blown open on Thursday, when the Chairman of the Board of PRODA, Comrade Daniel Onjeh at a press conference in Abuja reacted to the Lower Chamber’s Wednesday resolution calling for immediate suspension and prosecution of PRODA DG/CEO.

Comrade Onjeh decried intimidation and blackmail by the lawmakers over his insistence that PRODA would not get involved in payments for projects not executed.

He said, the House of Representatives speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Henry Nwawuba representing Mbaike Federal Constituency of Imo State, who is the Committee Chairman of ‘House’s Public Procurement Committee Probe of PRODA, 2020 Procurement Exercise were putting the agency under pressure to pay for unexecuted zonal constituency projects.

According to Onjeh, the Committee headed by Hon. Nwawuba was meant to indict PRODA with a view to coercing it into doing the anomaly, which he vowed never to succumb.

Onjeh revealed that the suspended DG/CEO of PRODA, Engr. Dr. Charles Agulanna was a stooge of lawmakers who has been compromising in paying for contracts which didn’t exist. He explained that since 2018, the embattled DG has not made available audit reports of PRODA to the Board, while also hoarding vital documents to the extent that there was no record of activities of the agency. The development, he maintained, angered the House members into setting up a Committee, noting that they were not surprised at the blackmail.

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He said, though, the Committee at a point summoned him to appear, but he wasn’t allowed to speak for fear of leaking secrets of lawmakers’ underhand dealings at PRODA.

The Board Chairman said: “All I can say at this juncture is that members of the National Assembly are professional blackmailers.

“At first they tried to discredit me and my position by preventing me from talking at the Committee’s self-styled Public investigation, knowing very well that as PRODA Board Chairman, and a major stakeholder, I have the right to speak at the investigation.

Onjeh noted that having denied him opportunity to speak at public hearing after he waited for six hours, a member of the Committee called him to his office the following day and said, contractors of PRODA have petitioned him, saying he didn’t want to pay them.

According to him, the lawmaker told him that they don’t want to embarrass him, but he insisted that he was ready to defend himself, if copies of the petition were made available to him.

He noted: “Therefore, the blackmail I have found, is the NASS’s stock in trade. No wonder, the PRODA DG, Engr. Agulanna, whom the President suspended on the recommendation of the Board, once recounted how he was forced to bribe members of NASS with N6 million as they could make life difficult for him and cut his Agency’s budget.

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He explained that Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila called him to his office and told him that there were reports that he refused to pay contractors handling various projects for Honourable members.

The Chairman said, the unexecuted projects in PRODA has got to a level that the anti-graft agencies would have to wade in.

“We are inviting the anti-corruption agencies, the ICPC, the EFCC to wade into this matter and take over the investigation of this matter.

“The PRODA management is going to cooperate with them to bring out their so-called contractors files to see how they have been shortchanging the general public and Nigerian government in the last sixteen years.

“I am overseeing an agency that has N11 billion and some people want to play ball and if that is your interest, only if it is ‘I beg’ on your knee you will go and talk with the DG, moreso, am his boss.

“Do I need to go and beg for anything I want? But at the expense of my comfort, I chose to do what is fair and just in the overall interest of Nigerians”, Onjeh maintained.

According to him, the lawmakers are more concerned with contracts than their legislative responsibilities, thereby making them to use PRODA to siphon government money.

“We have discovered that most PRODA contractors are mere fronts for NASS members, used as conduit pipes for siphoning monies meant for zonal intervention and constituency projects.

“They colluded with the Agency’s suspended DG on several ocassions and received full payments for contracts without proof to justify government spending of such huge sums.

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“Sadly, they have been doing this for several years. Unfortunately for them, they have hit the rock this time around with the current Governing Board in place.

“That is why they are trying to blackmail PRODA’s current management and its Governing Board into paying for phony contracts unlawfully, illegally and invalidly awarded by an unauthorized staff.

In order for the Speaker to have grip of PRODA, Comrade Onjeh explained, the suspended DG with the aid of lawmakers handed over to an impostor, Mr. Nathan Abia-Bassey against the lawfully appointed DG.

Abia-Bassey was alledged to have been awarding contracts to NASS contractors singlehandedly without approval of PRODA Management Tender’s Board which was in breach of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

The House members became audacious to remove the current acting DG, Dr. Fabian Okonkwo because he has consistently declined payment for illegal and unexecuted contracts for the lawmakers.

According to him, they wanted the acting DG out of the way in order to install another person who is likely to compromise and pay out monies before expiration of the 2020 capital budgets at the end of March.

“Their aim is to ensure they remove Dr. Okonkwo as acting PRODA DG and install another pliable person before the deadline of March 31st 2021 which the agencies have to conclude their 2020 procurement exercise, so that their contractors could be paid at all cost.”

The Speaker was also, said to have commissioned PRODA Wifi projects in selected tertiary institutions in Lagos without passing through due process.

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