By Jerry Obidike and Tony Udemba
The last has not been heard of the concessioning deal of Lagos International Trade Fair Complex on Mile 2-Badagary expressway, Lagos. As the Senate is waiting to drill the Department of State Security (DSS), the Nigeria Police and others over the deal, AULIC Nigeria Limited, the concessionaire, has cried out, in a bid to state its case.
The concessionaire has urged the police and DSS to ignore the advice of the Chairman, Senate ad-hoc committee probing alleged misuse of revenue, under-remittance and other fraudulent activities in the collection, accounting, remittance and expenditure of Internally Generated Revenue by revenue generating agencies, Senator Solomon Adeola, for its ejection from the complex. The company said, for instance, that there was no N6.5 billion accrued revenue to recover in the agreement it signed with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) in 2007.
Senator Adeola, during a sitting of the Senate ad-hoc committee recently, urged the police and DSS to assist the Ministry of Commerce and Investment as well as the BPE to eject AULIC and recover about N6.5 billion accrued revenue from the company over a nine-year period.
However, speaking with Daily Sun yesterday, Mr. Dan Udeh, Company Secretary, said AULIC was not indebted to anybody.
His words: “We won the bid and paid all the fees that were stipulated –N200 million entry fees and another N12 million on what they call Chartels and others. At the end of the day, the management board that was the original managers, by the spirit of the concession, was supposed to leave that place and allow the concessionaire come on board. But it did not. The management board sat down there since 2007. They refused to let go of their vice grip over areas that were concessioned to AULIC.
“The transaction was signed by BPE, the baby of NCP, headed by the vice president. It was signed by Lagos international Trade Fair Complex Management Board and Aulic Nigeria Limited. Our responsibility to government, after bidding, was N40 billion in 30 years, assuming 322 hectares were given to us. They didn’t. As at today, it is not in dispute that AULIC has never been in control of areas occupied by the traders. Not a penny has been paid to AULIC. Now, we are left with undeveloped areas. The concessionaire had to develop the undeveloped areas, tried to generate funds so as to improve the place.”
The lawyer said the BPE and the Trade Fair Management board created the problem. They now started all kinds of contractual python dance. According to him, “they brought a certificate that we have removed a particular portion, we have excised a particular portion and that the traders’ areas was no longer theirs. We said no to that. When we bided it was for the entire place and that was what was signed as a contract.”
On whether the contract was ever reviewed, he said BPE could not have reviewed the contract without AULIC. “If three people signed an agreement in writing, for us to vacate that agreement three of us have to sit again in writing and agree. And we said no. They now issued a certificate purportedly excising a particular area. We made representations that they can’t do this. In fairness to them, when Bola Onagoruwa, an astute businesswoman, a top administrator, was in charge, she saw the anomaly and withdrew that excision. She said AULIC was given 322 hectares and even told the traders associations that their leases would be subsumed in the entirety of the concession.
“What does this mean? It doesn’t mean AULIC will just go and sack all traders associations. It doesn’t mean AULIC will revoke the contract. It simply means I will take custody of all your leases being operated under the old order and I will manage them. And that was what the traders refused to do. What was the basis of it? They were making money from the concession area.”
When asked if money traders pay regularly to Federal Government should have been paid to AULIC, the lawyer said: “Yes. Under the concession, all those money they were paying to government are supposed to be paid to AULIC. Then AULIC will, out of that payment, fulfill its final obligation to government. But we are in control of only about 22-27 per cent of the entire area. It is not in dispute. The Federal Government knows it. I am telling you that we are in control of about 22-27 per cent of the entire area, the undeveloped area. The traders associations have never ever paid to AULIC and they keep saying we owe N40 billion and all kinds of stories.
“Don’t forget that while this was going on, they made that place ungovernable for AULIC. They encouraged traders not to be answerable to AULIC. They armed them and made them very rebellious and ensured that they generated different kinds of litigations.”
Udeh said the 7th Senate wedded into the matter, in a bid to settle it, but the BPE and Trade Fair management board, according to him, rejected it.
“Thereafter, the Senate intervened in the matter and said AULIC has a point, that we are not in control of 322 hectares. It said all money paid should be recomputed and prorated, to merge the small area we are occupying. The Senate said if we had paid N200 million as entry fees for 322 hectares and has a small portion, instead of the whole as the contract stipulated, we are not getting value for N200 million. There was a resolution signed by the 7th Senate and they said AULIC, BPE, and Lagos Trade Fair Management Board should sit together and re-compute in the interest of peace.
“In the interest of peace, AULIC agreed to re-compute. The Senate directed that all litigations, all cases against AULIC be withdrawn because by that time, we had no case against BPE or Board. And we signed a memorandum of understanding in 2011. It was even agreed that everything we had agreed should be made terms of settlement in a court so that everybody would go his separate way. They didn’t do that. Instead they flouted it more. They did not withdraw the court case; they multiplied it. They refused to sit down with us to re-compute.
On the allegation that AULIC is indebted to government, he said: “The allegation is false. They are the ones actually owing us. The place given to us is no longer clear. Secondly, there is a court order to maintain status quo. The question is by what rate did they arrive at the figures? Who computed it? By what rate? The agreement did not give room for instalment payment. So Nigerians should ask them why they are holding unto a place they concessioned?”