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The federal house of Representatives has begun its investigation on the alleged breach of Nigeria’s laws on local content in the execution of the Federal Government project to construct a gas pipeline from Ajaokuta to Kano.
The House Committee on Local Content, which grilled some of the parties in the construction contract in ‘’Abuja on Tuesday, is particularly probing the contractors handling the 40’’× 318.6km BVS12 Kaduna-Kano section or Segment 2 of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano.
The investigation followed a petition by the Local Content Advocacy and Management Group written to the House, alleging that contractors in the consortium that bid for the project had been swapped after the Federal Executive Council approved the contract.
The letter read in part, “We call on you to use your honorable 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.
“To further expose the fraudulent intentions of Brentex CPP ab initio, they used capable Nigerian engineering companies to prequalify in order to meet local content requirement of the AKK project with NNPC, and these same local companies were ratified by BPP.
“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.”
The group warned that the “immediate and long-term implications of all of these to the Nigerian economy are very grave.”
The Lead Consultant and Solicitor for LCAMG, John Lebor, who spoke to journalists after the hearing, alleged that the contractors had violated the local content law, the NNPC Act, Nigerian export regulation, among others.
Lebor said, “That project is about $2.6bn. 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, fraudulentl, 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.
“Let nobody deceive you, China is not doing us a favour by borrowing us money. They have collected sovereignty guarantee, meaning that we are going to pay at very high rate. They have taken more than 60 per cent.
The local content law, there is nothing like Chinese content.
We will not accept it and if we need to go to Court, we will do that.
Earlier, the committee grilled Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Yusuf Usman, who represented the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Melee Kyari, who said the corporation only signed a deal with Brentex CPP, while Bablinks was not involved in the deal.
Usman stated that it was the consortium that later brought in Bablink Resource Ltd, adding that all the terms of the contract have complied with the Local Content Act. He stressed that the NNPC had ensured compliance with all laws in relation to the construction project.
The Executive Vice Chairman, Brentex Nigeria Ltd, Sani Abubakar, said Brentex is wholly owned by Nigerians. He admitted that it was in partnership with Bablinks and not that Bablinks was part of the consortium.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Bablinks, Bolaji Isiaka, however, kicked, accusing Brentex of sidelining his firm on the project despite that he provided all the technical framework presented to win the contract.
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.