The Federal Executive Council (FEC) wednesday approved a refund of N148 billion spent on reconstruction of some federal roads in five states by affected state governments.
The breakdown of the funds and their beneficiaries are: Rivers (N78.953); Bayelsa (N38.040 billion); Cross River (N18.394 billion); Ondo (N7.822 billion); Osun (N2.468 billion).
Briefing State House reporters at the end of the virtual FEC meeting in Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the approval was the fallout of a memorandum presented to the council by the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
However, Mohammed was swift to warn that any state, which fails to secure the nod of the federal government before embarking on similar projects henceforth, will not be reimbursed.
Giving a background to the reimbursement, Mohammed said the decision was a sequel to a huge bill sent to the federal government by the entire 36 states of the federation in 2016, seeking a refund of funds they expended on the repair of some federal roads in their respective states.
According to him, the demand compelled President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a committee to visit the states and verify the claims they made.
The minister explained that at the end of the investigation, five states were denied reimbursement because they could not present convincing documents to back their claims while 31 others with verifiable documentations were paid over N550 billion.
Nevertheless, he explained that the committee later went back to those states for a second investigation and thereafter recommended the approved sum.
Mohammed added that before approving the refund, the committee ascertained that the roads and the bridges were not only completed, but were also in good shape, noting that some of the bridges and roads were built about 10 years ago.
He said: “You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads.
“This prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed, these projects were actually constructed. Were they completed in line with the federal government standards?
“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the honourable minister of works and housing which also had ministers of education, transportation, finance, minister of state for works, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and permanent secretary, cabinet office as members.
“At the end of that exercise, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes, indeed, the projects were completed and they were federal government roads.
“But the claims of five other states – Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun – failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation.
“So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order. That is why the BPP is on the committee.
“So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85;
Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.
“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge to get a refund of N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyover bridges is to get a refund of N78,953,067,518.29.”
He added: ‘’However, there is a caveat. The federal government will pay the states, but however, henceforth, if any state takes on federal government roads, it will not be paid. They will not get any refund. Even if you want to pay from your own pocket, you will still need the permission of the federal government and it will be supervised by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.”
He added modalities for future refund are currently being worked out and payment will be made over a period of time.
Credit: This Day