The House of Representatives is currently probing the breach of Nigeria’s laws on local content in the execution of the Federal Government project in the construction of a gas pipeline from Ajaokuta, Kogi State to Kano State.
The House Committee on Local Content interrogated some of the parties in the construction contract in Abuja on Tuesday, querying why the Nigerian contractors in the project were swapped for Chinese after the project had been approved by the Federal Executive Council.
The committee grilled the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Yusuf Usman, who represented the NNPC Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Melee Kyari, to explain their role in the controversial project.
The Local Content Advocacy and Management Group had petitioned the House, alleging that contractors in the consortium that bid for the project had been swapped after FEC approved the contract.
The petition dated, February 2, 2021, was addressed to Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, and copied to committee’s Chairman, Legor Idagbo.
It partly reads, “We call on you to use your honourable position to please investigate and address to compliance, the level of participation and engagement by Brentex CPP (Consortium) of our verified local companies who have the technical capacity to construct pipelines as required in this project.
“To also restrict Brentex CPP from further exporting our jobs by procuring fabricated pipings and structures that can be fabricated here in Nigeria.
“Surprisingly, upon contract award, Brentex CPP in clear violation of the pre-qualification bid, went ahead to engage companies from China to carry out these engineering service statutorily reserved for our local companies, for which these local engineering companies have been prequalified by NNPC and ratified by BPP.”
Speaking with journalists, the lead consultant for the LCAMG, John Lebor, said, “That project is about $2.6 billion. At the award of that project, NNPC and BPP insisted that there must be a local content company with the capacity and Bablinks Nigeria Limited is the company that has that local content capacity, in the sense that they have done a lot of pipeline projects in Warri with Shell and they are one of the best in the country.
“Now, Brentex Consortium, being a company without experience into oil and gas pipeline, entered into partnership with Bablinks. In legal terms, there is supposed to the Chinese company, Bablinks and Brentex.
“The due process document that was produced by the Bureau for Public Enterprise that was taken to the Federal Executive Council to approve this contract, clearly specify that Brentex should be responsible for procurement of the pipelines while Bablinks should be responsible for construction and engineering services.
“So, as technical partners, after they entered the agreement, they now removed Bablinks. If Bablinks was not part of the due process, there would have been no local content that the contract would have been awarded.
“Remember that the Brentex Consortium brought in the Chinese Company CPP because they claimed to be the company financing but when they came in, fraudulently, they told NNPC, ‘we don't have the money, bring in the Chinese government.’ So, CPP was used to bring in the Chinese Government.
“The Chinese government now offered loans to us at inhumane sovereign guarantee. They are not doing us a favour, they gave us money and we are going to pay for 10 years. What they have done is that, they now imported content.”
The lawyer decried that the new contractors now plan to bring over 50 Chinese expatriates “to come and take the job that locals will do.”
He added, “One Chinese engineer that they are bringing would earn what up to 500 Nigerians cannot earn in that project. You have a job of $2.6bn and you cannot find Nigerian companies and Nigerians there.
“What we want the Parliament to do is to force NNPC and the Chinese company to come to the table and provide and take away the Chinese content from the contract and allow the local content to provide it.”
Due to the new twist in the probe, the committee resolved to summon the Bureau of Public Procurement, while asking the NNPC, Brentex CPP and Bablinks to bring all documents relating to the contracts as well as all agreements between parties involved within one week for further legislative action.
The committee also directed the clerk to write to Corporate Affairs Commission to provide forward details of owners of the companies involved in the project.