Abuja – A member of the House of Representatives from Degema – Bonny Federal Constituency of Rivers State, Hon. Randolph Brown has accused the construction company handling the Bonny-Bodo road, Messrs Julius Berger Plc, of conspiring with some elements in the Ministry of Works to scuttle the project.
The lawmaker, at a media briefing in his office on Monday said Julius Berger’s action is predicated on the refusal by Bonny people to be short-changed in the execution of the N150 billion road contract.
He urged the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to listen to the voice of reason as presented by leaders of Bonny kingdom at a recent meeting to discuss allegations of insecurity by Julius Berger.
He said: “If the minister carries out his threats of removing the project from the budget, well, the people are bound to react, and whatever they decide, as a loyal member of my community, I will join them, but I’m urging the minister to listen to the elders.”
He accused Julius Berger of blackmailing the community, saying that the company cannot claim insecurity now after having worked there for over three decades without any issue.
“Julius Berger had operated without hindrance for more than 30 years in Bonny. Nobody has ever raised a stone against Julius Berger. They have a camp in Bonny, which they rent out like a hotel, and nobody has raised an eyebrow.
“They’ve been working for NLNG from the clearing, to building of houses and even the construction of the plant, and NLNG has kept them in the place since then without anybody raising an eyebrow or a stone against Julius Berger.
“The community has created enabling environments for companies to operate. Of all the crises in the Niger Delta, everybody is aware that Bonny is a safe haven for companies in the region. The NLNG is there as the biggest Federal Government investment in the region and they pay so much money in taxes to Federal Government.
“We have the Shell and Mobil terminals there and we’ve not had any unrest in Bonny to disrupt their operations. So for Julius Berger to now turn around to go and complain to the minister, that they are having security issues is absurd and unfortunate.
“And I’m accusing Julius Berger of trying to shortchange the people. If not, how can Julius Berger come and tell the people to clear a thick-swampy mangrove forest at N300 per square meter when they bided for the job at about N4000 per square meter?” he queried.
Tracing the background of the project, the lawmaker stressed its importance to the people of Bonny kingdom and government investment.
“The road was conceptualised in 1973 by the Alfred Diete Spiff administration, and for 44 years, it has been on the drawing board. But about 20 years ago, Federal Government awarded that road and paid about 60 percent of the money, but it never saw of light of day,” he said.
He added that the Buhari administration inherited the project at a reviewed cost of 150 Billion from its previous N120 Billion awarded by the Jonathan administration to Julius Berger to design and construct with the NLNG bearing 60 percent of the cost.
However, the lawmaker is expressing reservation in the willingness of the federal government to execute the project, following a threat of withdrawal issued by the minister.
He called on the federal government to discountenance Berger’s allegations of insecurity, describing it as baseless and unfounded.