Tony Anenih, recently re-appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to head the board of the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, does not have a clean past in managing public funds, a 2009 senate report said.
In December 2009, a damning report detailing how Mr. Anenih, a former works minister and then leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), allegedly mismanaged billions of naira meant for the rehabilitation and construction of Nigerian roads, was listed for debate – for the third time in a row – by the Senate.
The transport probe report is filled with revelations of alleged serial malpractices, and shows how, in 10 years (1999 to 2009), through multiple contract inflation frauds, connivance between contractors and government officials, some N645 billion was spent on 4,752 kilometres of road; shortchanging the government to the tune of N49 million on each kilometre of road worked on, amounting to approximately N233 billion.
The report, produced by a senate ad-hoc committee on transportation, led by Heineken Lokpobiri, blamed Anenih and his successors in the ministry, for the poor state of Nigerian highways during the period and called for their prosecution.
The report shows that Nigeria’s public transportation sector, under the watch of Mr. Anenih and three others, was a cesspit of monumental corruption and fraud as contractors connived with government officials to defraud the country.
The report contains details of what its authors said was one of the nation’s largest portfolio of official scams at the time.
During its 20-day sitting in 2008, the ad-hoc committee said it scrutinised 532 written memoranda and listened to 248 presentations.
The committee said ministers and other senior officials of the ministries of transportation and Finance between 1999 and 2009 awarded multiple contracts for the same roads and paid for unapproved contracts.
According to the report, between 1999 and 2009, the ministry of transportation gave contracts for the construction and rehabilitation of 11, 591 km roads at a cost of N1.008 trillion – about N87 million per km.
During the same period, only 41 per cent of the roads were worked on, after close to 64 per cent of the contract value was paid.
In the 10-year period, work was done on only 4,752 kilometres of roads for N645.8 billion, at very high cost of N135.8 million per kilometre, defrauding the government N49 million on each kilometre.
“There was no commensurate value for funds expended on the roads from 1999 to 2009,” the committee said.
The committee said contractors, who were usually selected on questionable grounds, liaised with the leadership of the ministries and reduced the scope of awarded contracts without an equivalent scaling down on costs. In all cases, no one received any query from the internal audit.
The report said that under the reign of Tony Anenih, Adeseye Ogunlewe, Obafemi Anibaba and Cornelius Adebayo, road contracts were awarded depending only on estimates that were submitted by the bidding contractors, without prior design by the ministry.
The ministry also “fixed prices even before the roads were actually designed by the companies,” the report said.
The report detailed how about half – 46 per cent – of the companies that got jobs under Mr. Anenih and the three were not registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission at the time they were awarded contracts, against contract management rules.
It described the engineering representatives of the transport ministry as some of the most corrupt and lacking in technical expertise. “They granted clearances to the contractors when the jobs were far from finished,” the report said.
The current Petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who – as minister of Transportation and Works – literally wept while inspecting the condition of the Benin-Ore road, was also indicted in the report.
The panel said Mrs. Alison-Madueke paid more than N1.2 billion into the private account of a company called Digital Toll Gates Limited, against the written advice of the Due Process Office.
Recommended for prosecution
The senators recommended that Tony Anenih, Adeseye Ogunlewe, Obafemi Anibaba and Cornelius Adebayo, who headed the transport ministry within that period, along with their Ministers of State and the Permanent Secretaries be prosecuted by the government for defrauding the nation.
The report also recommended the prosecution of Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who was the permanent secretary during the administration of all the ministers except Mr. Anenih’s. He was alleged to have crafted a means of splitting contracts into sizeable amounts to bring the values within the approving authority of his office. With this, projects with single appropriation were allegedly awarded by him separately sometimes to non-existing companies.
Swept under the carpet
That report was never considered on the floor of the senate.
The report, which took the ad hoc committee 18 months to produce, kept appearing on the senate’s order paper as a matter to be considered at the next plenary till February 2010 when it was again listed to be debated and adopted in March. That was its last listing before that senate session ended in June 2011.
Ayogu Eze, a member of the committee and spokesman for the senate at the time, said the report could have “skipped the minds of those in the Senate leadership” or, perhaps, the Rules and Business committee of the Senate failed to slate it for discussion.
The Rules and Business Committee schedules matters handed down to it by the Senate leadership for discussion.
Alloysius Etok, then chairman of the Rules and Business Committee explained at the time he could no longer schedule the probe report for debate because he got no green light from the then senate leadership, led by David Mark.
“I’m trying to prioritise them (issues to be discussed by the Senate) and again, they (the authors of the report) did not finish that job,” Mr. Etok said. “I was trying to weigh the options which I am still trying to talk to the leadership to see if we can now take the report in part. If the leadership agrees that we treat it in parts, then I will bring it up for the interest of the public and Nigerian people. If the leadership says we should wait till they bring the second part of the report, then I will wait.”
The report indicting Mr. Anenih was the first part of a larger investigation of alleged corruption in the transport sector since 1999 by the Lokpobiri led Senate ad-hoc committee.
The second part of the report, which lawmakers said detailed the misuse of the funds meant for the marine and air transport sector during that time, was never submitted.
Mr. Jonathan ignores indictment to reappoint Anenih
President Jonathan has now brushed aside that indictment hanging on Mr. Anenih’s neck, appointing him to head the board of the NPA. Critics say the appointment has once again underlined the president’s non-commitment to the war against corruption.
The presidency could not be reached to comment for this story. His spokespersons, Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe, did not answer or return calls made to their telephones.@YNaija