Contractors shut Nigeria’s agric ministry over N17bn debt

Some contractors have stormed Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development over alleged non-payment of their N17bn debt incurred from execution of various projects in 2018.

The protesters, who held banners with inscriptions such as “Permanent secretary must go”, “Our Projects won election for PMB” and “We are dying of hunger” blocked the main entrance to the ministry’s main building, thereby preventing visitors and staff access.

Denied entrance into the minister’s office by security operatives, they demanded the sack of the minister, Sabo Nanono, and the Permanent Secretary, Mu’azu Abdulkadir.

Coordinator of the group, Mr. ChidiKanu, told journalists that they were awarded various agriculture contracts since 2018 but that the ministry refused to pay them after they had completed the projects.

He said upon verification, it was discovered that over 98 per cent of the budgetary allocations for that year were released to the ministry, but were diverted.

But the director of press in the ministry, Theodore Ogaziechi, said that the ministry agreed to carry out a verification exercise on whether the projects were actually executed before they could get paid.

Ogaziechi added that the delay in payment was because some of the projects were not completed in the year under review.

Confronted with the ministry’s position, Kanu said most of them completed the projects before March last year, with Certificate of Completion issued to them in May and June.

He explained that they had written series of letters to anti-graft agencies, the National Assembly, the Accountant General of the Federation and the head of Service, and didn’t received any reply, but for the query issued to the former permanent secretary, Dr. Mohammed Bello.

Arguing that the action of the minister and permanent secretary did not conform to the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari, he called for probe of the ministry.

“We worked since 2018 and delivered based on the contract they gave us. They used our projects to campaign for this government and at the end, they said there is no money.

“We are asking President Muhammadu Buhari to come to our rescue. They are even about to award fresh contracts for 2020 without paying us.

“A high powered panel should be initiated to probe the ministry,” he said.

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