From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Controversy is trailing the probe of the Centenary City project by the House of Representatives Committe on Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The $18.72 billion Centenary City Project, which sits on 1,267 hectares of land in the FCT was conceptualised during the tenure of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to commemorate Nigeria’s centenary celebration in 2014.
The committee headed by Hon. Herman Hembe submitted its report to the House recently. The 64 page report indicted former Secretary to the Government of the Federation( SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, former Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed and two directors of the Centenary City Plc, Paul Oki and Boma Ozobia. They were all indicted for allegedly breaching extant laws on Public Procurement Act and Presidential directive on the multi-billion naira Centenary City project.
Consequently, the report recommended their prosecution by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
However, the report is already generating ripples in the House as a member of the FCT Committee, Hon Linus Okorie, says the entire report was not a true reflection of the findings of the Committee.
Okorie in a minority report says Anyim and three others did not commit any offence to warrant their prosecution.
But the main report jointly signed by Hembe and clerk of the Committee, Mukhtar Kusari had observed that “the implementation of the centenary city project from the beginning to its current status leaves much to be desired. Presidential directives were flouted, relevant laws were violated and contractual obligations were wantonly breached for project for which private investors was sourced.”
It added that “as far as the Committee could determine, there was nothing in the portfolio of Centenary City Plc to suggest that the company had the financial capacity to implement a project of USD18,376,660,950” and argued that “the selection of Centenary Plc as the preferred investor for the project was shrouded in secrecy.”
Consequently, it recommended that:”relevant law enforcement agencies including but not limited to the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should investigate the role of the parties involved in the promotion/selection of Centenary City Plc as an investor and their roles in the management of the Centenary City project. The promoters include the former SGF, the former FCT Minister, Ms Boma Ozobia and Mr. Paul Oki.”
Similarly, the committee recommended that all the statutory Rights of Occupancy purportedly revoked by the former FCT Minister, Senator Bala Moammed in the area covered by the Centenary City should be restored back to the original allottees unconditionally without delay by the present FCT Minister, Mohammed Musa Bello.
The committee also recommended that the Right of Occupancy and Certificate of Occupancy granted to Centenary City Plc by former FCT Minister, Mohammed on 10th April, 2014, should be withdrawn by Bello.
According to the report , the former SGF “applied for Certificate of Occupancy on behalf of Centenary City Plc vide letter dated 6th February, 2014, with reference umber SGF.32/S.47/III/. Awarded a contract on behalf of Centenary City Plc on 11th June 2013 for the relocation of 330KV DC transmission lines crossing the proposed Centenary City. Wrote to the then FCT Minister vide letter dated 3rd December, 2013 with reference number SGF.32/S.47/11 requesting for details of Bank accounts to pay on behalf of Centenary City Plc, the sum of N1,234,747,076 being compensation money to be paid by Centenary City Plc to displaced persons.”
On the other hand, the minority report by Okorie disowned almost all of the recommendations , declaring the there was no basis for the call for the prosecution of Anyim and the three others as no wrong doing was established against them.
Okorie further said: “the reporting pattern and the consequent findings did not present the entire facts and consequently the recommendations did not flow from the true facts or findings. It is clear that the recommendations were at variance with the findings of the Committee.”
According to him, the recommendation to probe the former SGF, and former FCT and the directors of the Centenary City Plc Ozobia and Oki, was alien to the work of the committee.
“The recommendation appears to come from the moon. The Committee did not make any finding as to fraud and did not also allege any,” Okorie said.
He further asked “So, what is the basis for asking the agencies listed in the above recommendation to come in? The Committee only alleged that conditions were not met. Does that come within the mandate of these agencies? At best, this could be an administrative infraction.
“Again, there is no finding in the Report that Senator Anyim acted outside the purview of his official responsibility as the government coordinator of the project.”
Okorie’s report also faulted Hembe’s report that recommended the restoration of revoked land covered by the Centenary City carried out by the former FCT Minister to the alleged original allottees, saying “the basis for the recommendation is misplaced as the Committee had confirmed that the City is not a Land Swap Programme and so cannot be guided by Land Swap terms.
“Again, this is inconsistent with the findings of the Committee that the project is a government (interest) project to be driven by the private sector. And so, there is no infringement on the Land Use Act and the Land Swap Terms no longer applies from the point the President approved it as a Free Zone.
“It is clear that the recommendations were at variance with the findings of the Committee. I believe that if the Committee had spent more time to make detailed findings, it would have come to a different conclusion from what is recommended, “he submitted.
The lawmaker further noted that :”On the capacity of the investor to implement a project of $18 billion, I am of the opinion that the Committee did not do enough work by undertaking necessary due diligence on ‘Eagle Hills’ or ‘Sheikh Mohammed Alabbar (the chairperson of Eagle Hills) to establish their capacity or otherwise. I recommend that the House should necessarily undertake this due diligence.”
Ironically, the Senate Committee on the FCT had much earlier, embarked on similar probe of the Centenary City project, with a report remarkably different from the Hembe report.
In its report, the Senate FCT Committee chaired by Senator Dino Malaye had submitted thus:”the following compensation have been duly paid by CCPLC through the FCTA:Compensation on the Centenary City site; Compensation on the relocation of the 330 KVA Transmission line crossing over the Centenary City site; and Compensation on the Resettlement land.
“It was also established that due processes were complied with in the following areas: Issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy; Granting of the Free Zone status; Payment of all compensation; Obtaining of the Resettlement land and in developing the Development Control Regulations (DCR)
“We are pleased to note that the opportunity of this public hearing has been an eye opener on the whole issues about the Centenary City Project. There had been a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding and misconception of the Project and many issues about it.”
Since the commencement of the probe of the Centenary City Project by the House Committee ,it has been one drama and controversy after another.
Recall that at the inaugural sitting of the public hearing on the Centenary City Project, Anyim, whose office as SGF supervised the project had protested against Hembe presiding over the exercise.
After a hot exchange between the former Senate President and Hembe at the opening session of the public hearing, the former left the public hearing on a very rancorous note.
Subsequently, the former FCT Minister and Okorie had very sharp disagreement with Hembe in the course of the public hearing.
In fact, in the case of Okorie,the committee had to go into an executive session to address the disagreement between him and the committee chairman.
Although, the Senate and House of Representatives operate independently, when one chamber is completely done with an issue, the other chamber is less likely to dabble into it. However, in situations where both chambers come up with different resolutions on same issue, there would be a harmonisation. But analysts say the sharp variation between the House and Senate reports on the Centenary City project, is leaving many questions begging for answers.
With the submission of its report on the Centenary City probe by the FCT Committee, the next stage is the debate on the floor of the House.