Local contractors in Nigeria on Monday picketed the Ministry of Finance Headquarters in Abuja, protesting the delayed payment of executed projects.
According to the contractors, the executed projects, which were awarded validly to them in various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of the Federal Government between three to 12 years, summed up to N18 billion.
Displaying different placards with inscriptions like “save our children from starvation, pay us now” “we borrowed money to execute contracts”, “You paid your husband, Zainab, pay us” amongst others.
According to a statement by the spokesperson of the contractors, Dandy Rowland, the ministry refused to pay them despite the approval of money by the Presidency to settle the liabilities.
He said over 5000 members of the local contractor across the country were passing through severe life-threatening situations and hunger, while some have passed on as a result of the delay in payment.
“The Presidency inaugurated Presidential Initiative on Contract Audit (PICA) in the Federal Ministry of Finance to verify the contracts we executed over the years and PICA has since verified these contracts over and over again and recommended the settlement of the local contractors in batches, beginning with 10 million naira downwards in order to cover a wide range of the Local contractors based on the available fund, yet Madam Finance Minister is still talking of verification every now and then, in order to manipulate the payment against PICA’s recommendation.
“The Minister of Finance through her SA Media told us that 18 Billion naira has been released to pay us, and announced to the whole world through Radio Nigeria Network News on 8th July 2020 that the Finance Ministry would pay local contractors between 7 to 14 days from the date of the announcement, this empty deceptive and unfulfilled promise heightened our pressure from our creditors after the expiration of the stipulated period yet the game continued. Nigerians should be made to know that the funds Madam Zainab is spending on the so-called verification gambling exercises are almost amounting higher than the amount owed the local contractors put together,” he said in a statement.
He pointed out that these contractors borrowed money from banks with interest, executed these contracts and they are aware that President Muhamadu Buhari had since last year approved and released Multi-Billion Naira to pay local contractors of these liabilities based on PICA’s verification.
He accused the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, of choosing to withhold and delay this payment.
“We are once again, calling on the Presidency to mandate the Minister of Finance to pay Local Contractors now or else we will remain in this protest and hunger strike before the eyes of the globe.
“The Federal Government did not waste time to commission the projects we executed with borrowed money as her achievements, but now it is taking the government decades to do verification for our payment. The Federal Government cannot fool us forever.
“Therefore FG must pay us now, because if the reverse had been the case if we had collected government money without executing the projects, the government would have arrested and jailed us. This is Corruption of the highest order and it is unacceptable.
“As a result of this delay, many local contractors have died. Many are hospitalised and can’t afford medical bills. Our children have dropped out of school. Many among us are facing criminal charges in various courts across the nation for funds borrowed and unable to pay back.
“Some have fled their homes for fear of being attacked by creditors. And some have lost their homes to banks and creditors,” he said.
Commenting on the protest, the Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Yunusa Abdullahi, says that the ministry yesterday dialogued with the contractors
He said the verification process was still ongoing, saying the contractors will be paid as soon as they are verified.
“You know these are projects that date as far back 10years, there are a lot of documents to verify both with the contractors and at the ministries or agencies they claim to have executed contracts to avoid paying the wrong people with the taxpayers money.
“The verification process is ongoing and should be done in 4weeks, after which the verified contractors will be paid,” he said.