PRODA crisis: Dan Onjeh calls for immediate resignation of Speaker Gbajabiamila, slams Nwawuba – TBEN

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Comrade Daniel Onjeh, the Chairman Governing Board of Projects Development Institute (PRODA), has called for the immediate resignation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

PRODA, an agency of government, has been under probe by the Reps Committee on Public Procurement over activities of the agency, which is under the Ministry of Science and Technology in Enugu.

According to the Committee, Onjeh was suspended by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology as the head of the agency’s board.

However, Onjeh had asked the panel to retract the claims or face being dragged to court by his lawyers, adding that their submission was misleading and false.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja on Sunday, Onjeh said Gbajabiamila should immediately resign as the Speaker of the Green Chamber for trying to mislead the general public.

He said, “As a bona fide citizen of Nigeria, having full knowledge of these circumstances, I am emotionally and psychologically disoriented. Consequently, I am calling for the immediate resignation of the Speaker. He should honourably resign his exalted position, as he lacks the moral rectitude to continue to preside over the House.”

Onjeh also said Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba, member representing Mbaitoli/Ikeduru Federal Constituency of Imo State, should be reprimanded to refrain from further attempts at misleading Nigerians and the Hallowed Green Chamber of the National Assembly.

The former NANS president also said the House Committee on Public Procurement investigating the PRODA 2020 Procurement Exercise must be disbanded immediately, as it is evidently programmed for an expected end, hence lacks legitimacy.

Full text of his speech below:

It is no longer news that the Federal House of Representatives made me the target of their vitriolic media attacks in the preceding week, over what they termed procurement deception, staff victimization and ongoing Management problem in the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. Hence, it is imperative for me to respond to the widely published wild allegations that some Members of the Federal House of Representatives leveled against me both during their plenary session on Wednesday, 10th February 2020, and at the Public Hearing of the House Committee on Public Procurement on Thursday, 18th February, 2021, as well as the sideline musings on these issues from Members of the House of Reps as reported in the media; before the erroneous information takes root and assumes a semblance of the truth into the minds of unsuspecting members of the public.

Indeed, the more the Federal Legislators continue to launch their invectives and smear campaign against me and the dignified members of the PRODA Governing Board and Management, all in defense of their personal pecuniary interests and the interests of their numerous dubious fronting contractors, the more I shall give vent to the true position of issues to keep the public abreast of the facts. More so, as I am certain that the current onslaught against me by the Reps Members is nothing short of an attempt to divert the attention of the public from the core issues and the facts. My case can be likened to hunting the messenger, rather than addressing the message. However, Ken Saro-Wiwa of blessed memory had once stated that, “they may make attempts to destroy the messenger, but they can never destroy the message.”

Furthermore, I was able to distill two critical issues from the almost week-long attack on my person by some Members of the House of Reps. One is the allegation of forgery and impersonation of the Chairman of PRODA, an allegation that I consider to be most infantile, petty and ludicrous, because it smacks of the height of their desperation to silence me in the face of the palpable rot at PRODA; for which some of the Reps Members are undeniably accomplices in the retardation of the Institute. That’s why they conveniently fed the public with half-truths surrounding the circumstances. What they termed “forgery and impersonation,” was simply that I wrote to them on my letterhead, in response to an invitation they had earlier extended to me, which they duly addressed to me in my capacity as the Chairman of the Governing Board of PRODA.I simply replied them using the very same address through which they earlier wrote to me. They didn’t mince words about my status and contact address in their letter to me. So I replied them in the capacity of the office through which they wrote to me. Indeed, contact details and designation are the key information conveyed by any letterhead. But because they had nothing whatsoever to pin down on me, they are desperate to create one, hoping they could intimidate me out of the platform at my disposal to reveal their complicity in the corruption and industrial disharmony at PRODA.

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The House of Reps Members had taken their puerility further by directing the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to author a disclaimer on me, something I consider an exercise in absolute futility. Because it is only the President and Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed me; that has the sole powers to declare me removed from the office. But even Mr. The President, through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), had recently sent me an invitation to come along with my Board Members to defend our allegations against the suspended DG of PRODA, Engr. Charles Agulanna, and in that letter; I was duly addressed as the Board Chairman. Consequently, I led other Board Members to appear before the Independent Investigative Panel of the SGF on 13th February, 2021 in Abuja, andthe Panel directed me as the Board Chairman, to make the presentation on behalf of the Board. So how does that amount to impersonation?

I had earlier written an open letter to the Speaker of the House of Reps, demanding an apology for the deliberate and malicious misrepresentation of my status as being suspended, by Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba, during the House plenary on Wednesday, 10th February 2020. Now, the House of Reps has come up with a further reason for me to approach the court of law, unless of course, they tender an open apology. To shed further light on the issue, I was invited by the House of Reps Committee on Public Procurement on 16th February, 2021, and the letter was forwarded to me by the Acting DG of PRODA, Engr. Dr. Fabian Okonkwo on16h February, 2021. Upon enquiry if the Board was the only Body invited, the Acting DG said that he was equally invited, and that the letter sent to him was addressed in the capacity of his office as Acting DG. He also informed me that the suspended DG of PRODA was invited, and addressed in his current capacity as “suspended DG”. It is therefore clear that the Committee knew exactly whom they were inviting, and in their respective capacities. If they claim that I had been suspended, they should have also written to me as the “suspended Chairman”, or any other capacity that they deemed most appropriate. But they chose to do the proper thing by addressing me as the Board Chairman.

Furthermore, the Management Staff and Board Members of PRODA jointly resolved that since they had all left Abuja to their various destinations after attending the SGF’s Independent Investigative Panel to defend their case against the suspended DG, they needed more time to prepare and return to Abuja to face the House of Reps Committee on Public Procurement, and we needed to communicate this decision to request for postponement of our appearance before the House Committee on Public Procurement. Therefore, to the Reps Members, they had set an inescapable booby trap for me; because if I had not written them that letter at all, they would have accused me of contempt; but now that I have written, they are also accusing me of forging my own document, and impersonation of my own office! Having written to me in the capacity of Chairman, it was only logical that I reply to them in the capacity that they addressed me. So they certainly should not be the ones to complain about my address and designation on my letterhead, because the law does not permit anyone to approbate and reprobate at the same time.

Now the question is; how does what I have done amount to impersonation or forgery? It will be clear to the public that this is just a desperate attempt to assassinate my character. Indeed, according to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and current DG of the World Trade Organization, “corruption is dangerous to fight”.

The core second issue is my alleged interference with the 2020 procurement process of the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), an information that is utterly misguided and misleading because according to the Public Service Rules, the DG is in charge of the day to day activity at the agency, subject to the direction of the Board. The primary role of the Board is to initiate and drive policies on behalf of the Federal Government, and to ensure compliance by agencies through its oversight functions. The Public Service Rules 2008 Edition, Chapter 16, Section 2 (BOARDS/COUNCIL MATTERS)states thus:

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(a) Statutory Boards/Councils shall set operational and administrative policies in accordance with government policy directives and supervise the implementation of such policies. The administrative policies may include those relating to appointment, promotion and discipline of staff.

(b) A Board shall not be involved directly in the day-to-day management of a Parastatal.

(c) A Minister exercise control of Parastatals at policy level through the Board of the Parastatal only.

In addition, the principles guiding the operational relationship between the Board and the DG/CEO are summarized in Chapter 7, Paragraph 5, (Page 69), of the Guides to Administrative Procedures in the Federal Public Service, Federal Republic of Nigeria, as follows:

“Subject to general direction and control of the Board, the Chief Executive is charged with the day-to-day management of the affairs of the statutory body in accordance with the objectives and targets set by the Board. The Board should not be involved directly in the day-to-day management of a Parastatal.”

Hence, so long as the issues that are emanating regarding the procurement process of PRODA are about procedures and compliance, it is within the purview of the powers of the Governing Board to direct. One would wonder why the National Assembly wishes to silence me, or what they seek to achieve by maligning my character. But I know that their struggle is all about their schemes to divert the 11 billion Naira Capital Budget of PRODA, as has been the case in previous years where contractors fronting for National Assembly Members colluded with the suspended DG of the PRODA, Engr. Agulanna, to embezzle public funds meant for zonal and constituency developments projects, initiatives intended to alleviate the plight of the teeming masses at the grassroots. The public needs to know that several billions have been claimed previously via such underground channels, without evidence of commensurate value provided for Government spending. Indeed, I have previously affirmed that the National Assembly is one of the major impediments to Nigeria’s infrastructural development. The assiduous efforts of His Excellency President Buhari, to ameliorate the plights of Nigerians by providing them with the much-needed infrastructure are being sabotaged to great extents by some members of the National Assembly. Are we still surprised that the former House Committee Chairman on Finance, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, held firmly to his assertion that our national budgets were being “padded” by members of the National Assembly, his own colleagues?

Furthermore, both Chairmen of the Senate and House of Reps Committees on Science and Technology have pressurized the Acting DG of PRODA to pay contractors who were illegally and unlawfully issued contract award letters by one Mr. Nathan Abia-Bassey, a Deputy Director in the Institute, who was never in fact and by law, appointed by Mr. President as Acting DG of PRODA. Some of these contractors were neither given Bills of Quantities, nor Drawings, Procurement Documents and Scope of Work, but they claimed they had finished executing their contracts and were demanding for full payment. A very desperate one among them, Messrs Zepek Concepts Limited, claimed to have been awarded a contract to build one of PRODA Zonal Offices in the South West in December, 2020; but alleged that he finished executing the contract in the same December, 2020, however without any contractual documentation. We later discovered that what the contractor did was to take a snapshot of an old building with rusty zinc roof somewhere in Osun State, had it repainted, and positioned men attired as technicians inscribing PRODA’s logo on the building. That same building had earlier been commissioned by His Excellency Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who ceased to be the Governor of Osun State over 10 years ago! Next, the company’s MD uploaded the photograph to his Facebook page, claiming that he had finished executing the contract and is expecting to be paid the full contract sum of One Hundred and Four Million, Eight Hundred and Ninety-Eight Thousand, Seven Hundred and Twenty Eight Naira, Seventy-Five Kobo ( N104, 898,728.75) only, with hard-earned taxpayers’ money.

The Hon. Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who had earlier directed the Acting DG to go and pay some contractors alleged handling some spurious contracts, had at a particular time, called me to ask why I am stopping the Acting DG from paying the “Contractors of Honourable Members”. The Speaker’s vested interest became pronounced when he commissioned the Institute’s Wifi project in selected tertiary institutions in Lagos State for over One Hundred Million Naira each, when in actual sense, the contractor handling the project had no Bills of Quantities and Scope of Work; and with the illegal award letter signed by Mr. Nathan Abia-Bassey. The same contractor violated the relevant provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007, and the conditions stipulated by the Bureau of Public Procurements (BPP) in its approval granted to PRODA for Due Process “No Objection” to adopt Selective Tendering Method for Proposed 2020 Capital/Constituency Projects, as contained in the Bureau’s letter dated November 04, 2020 with Ref. No.: BPP/S.1/CID/20/Vol.I/ 592, Paragraph 9 thus:

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…PRODA should note that this Due Process “No Objection” is granted on the conditions that the Institute shall ensure that:

A minimum of Five (5) unrelated companies/firms are shortlisted to participate in each LOT and no bidder should be allowed to bid for more than one (1) LOT in order to enhance competition;

However, from the due diligence PRODA carried out at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), it was observed that the same contractor that is allegedly handling the Lagos Schools Wifi Project, JRB Construction Company Limited, is the director of 7 companies handling jobs in the PRODA 2020 Procurement Exercise alone, to the tune of a whooping One Billion, Four Hundred and Five Million, One Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty Naira (N1,405,175,850.00) only. Yet, they are asking the PRODA Management to go and pay such a shady contractor, for phony contracts executed.

Furthermore, it is absolutely important for the public to know that the “Motion of National Importance” mandating the House Committee on Public Procurement to set-up a Committee to investigate PRODA 2020 Procurement Exercise as moved by Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba, was deceptively and incurably bad, because it was laced with bias. I can authoritatively state that Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba, Representing Mbaitoli/Ikeduru Federal Constituency of Imo State, who is also the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, has a vested interest in a PRODA contractor, as evident in his letter titled, “Letter of Job Completion,” which he wrote to the Director General of PRODA on 18th September, 2020 and copied the Agency’s Head of Procurement, requesting the DG to pay a contractor, and citing that the contractor had finished his job, at a time when no form of contract award letter, whether controversial or legitimate, had been issued by PRODA. As such, Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba deceived Nigerians by suggesting that it was a case of “urgent national importance”, whereas he was speaking for his personal interest, for his stomach!

In similar vein, Mr. Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila,had also directed, even though verbally and via telephone, that PRODA Management should go and pay for nebulous contracts. Hence, Mr. Speaker has no moral justification to preside over that Motion, because like I’ve earlier said, it is laced with vested interests and not in the best interest of the generality of Nigerians. As a bona fide citizen of Nigeria, having full knowledge of these circumstances, I am emotionally and psychologically disoriented. Consequently, I am calling for the immediate resignation of the Speaker. He should honourably resign his exalted position, as he lacks the moral rectitude to continue to preside over the House. Furthermore, the Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba who moved the Motion, aside being biased, should apologize to Nigerians for attempting to deceive them, and should also be reprimanded to refrain from further attempts at misleading Nigerians and the Hallowed Green Chamber of the National Assembly. Also, the House Committee on Public Procurement investigating the PRODA 2020 Procurement Exercise must be disbanded immediately, as it is evidently programmed for an expected end, hence lacks legitimacy.

It is instructive for me to add that I led the Board that recommended the suspension of the Former DG of PRODA on corruption related issues, amongst others. To the best of my knowledge, there is no shred of allegation against me anywhere. However, since I was the one who spearheaded the preliminary investigation of the suspended DG of PRODA, my being asked to step-aside as Board Chairman, is a normal administrative procedure authorities take sometimes so that the investigation of the accused can go on unfettered. Therefore, I am calling on Nigerians not to be hoodwinked by the falsehood being propagated by some members of the House of Reps, with a bid to divert public attention from the real issues bedeviling PRODA.

Finally, I want to appreciate Mr. President for his firm support even in this fight against corruption, by approving the recommendation of the Board to suspend the Director General of PRODA. I also wish to use this medium to thank the SGF for recommending the precise position of the PRODA Board to Mr. President. Together, we shall kill the cankerworm of corruption, which has eaten deeply into the fabrics of this great nation.