7th May, 2012
I refer to the recent inspection visit to the Police Academy construction site by the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Omoniyi Caleb Olubolade (retd) in which you ( Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar) accompanied him. During that tour, the minister addressed the contractors on the need for prompt completion of the academy.
It was reliably gathered that the minister asserted that the Nigerian police was not owing the contractors handling the project. This declaration triggered reaction from a group of contractors, who were working on other projects for the police across the country. According to them, the claim was revulsive and blatant abuse of the sensibilities of Nigerians. They raised questions about other contractors handling various Nigerian Police building projects across the length and breadth of the country, i.e. Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Enugu, Lagos, Osun, Oyo states to mention but few, where Nigerian Police was owing contractors on jobs done for between two and five years. The group’s spokesman opined that the non-payment had adversely affected contractors who procured loans to execute Nigerian Police contracts. Securities pledged for loans were being threatened with possible foreclosures. Why award contracts you have no money to pay for upon completion? He went further to stress that the Nigerian Police and its commission had often failed and flouted contractual obligations made. For instance, contractors referred to the 15 percent mobilization fee promised in the letter of contract award, which compelled them to incur expenses on procurement of bank guarantee as demanded by the Nigerian Police before disbursement was not paid.
The default notwithstanding, contractors mobilised themselves and moved to the construction site in order to avert cancellation and indictment. They started construction of the buildings and worked up to the level of between 40-60 per cent, which automatically entitled them to, at least, have the first phase payment of the contract; after being duly approved and certified by the Nigerian Police architects and engineers. Alas, the much needed payment to kick-start the second phase was not done. Consequently, most of the contractors had to leave the work sites because of paucity of funds. They abandoned work with sad experiences and unpleasant stories to tell.
Needless elongating the issue, it behoves on any public officer to ensure that there was enough fund in the budget before awarding contracts to unsuspecting contractors and owing them indefinitely contributes negatively to our poverty alleviation efforts. Gone were the days of deceit designed to score cheap political gains, Nigerians deserve sincerity of purpose. It is pertinent to stress that now banks don’t entertain any loan application for purposes of executing Nigerian Police contracts due to obvious reason. The contractors’ spokesman inferred that they are on the verge of engaging the services of a lawyer, who will institute a legal action against the Nigerian Police over non-payment of debts and subsequently make claims on damages caused by the delay. He explained that this arrangement is the only viable channel, because of efforts made to see the minister were futile and a letter sent through his aides wasn’t acknowledged. Hence, the clarion call to the Minister, through this medium, that he should get the Nigerian Police to immediately settle its indebtedness to contractors without further delay. A maxim says “a stitch in time saves nine.”
It is outrageous and unethical of the Nigerian Police to refuse to pay for jobs done, which have been approved for payment by its architects and engineers for as long as five years and at the same time have the effrontery of declaring that it doesn’t owe its contractors. What about other numerous building projects contracted out by Nigerian Police, where its total indebtedness was worth more than N2 billion. It is highly expedient that the Nigerian Police should redeemed its image by making early settlement of these long overdue debts owed contractors and save them from financial strangulation and bankruptcy.
You and your officers should appreciate the immense benefits accruable from prompt payments of contracts done. By this, poverty will be eradicated, unemployment reduced, contract awarded promptly executed and youth restiveness curbed in the country.
Please act now and resolve the needful.
• M.I. Osaigbivo, a media consultant, wrote from Lagos.