$2.6bn contract: Reps fault plan to invite 50 expatriates

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Leke Baiyewu

The House of Representatives Committee on Local Content has faulted the plan for the Brentex CPP, the consortium handling construction of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline construction, to bring 50 expatriates from China, against the five approved by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board.

The committee also resolved to investigate the companies that formed the consortium, asking Brentex Petroleum Services Ltd, the lead partner, to provide the names of the companies that form the consortium, while the Corporate Affairs Commission would unveil the owners.

This is just as Bablink Resources Nigeria Ltd told the committee how Nigerian companies were allegedly short-changed in the multibillion-dollar deal.

The committee had on Tuesday met with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Brentex LCC and Bablink, while it summoned the Bureau of Public Procurement over alleged breach of local content laws.

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.

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Chairman of the committee, Mr Legor Idagbo, had noted that the probe by the lawmakers was based on a petition filed by the Local Content Advocacy and Monitoring Group, dated February 2, 2021.

Idagbo had also disclosed that the committee had received some documents from NNPC, Brentex, Bablink and the petitioners over the contract.

The lawmaker had said the committee would decide whether to go into a full investigative hearing or the issues could be resolved after the meeting.

“We will not tolerate a breach of any of our local content laws, to protect our local contractors and ensure that they get the best deal out of any investment in the country,” Idagbo had stated.

In his presentation, Executive Vice Chairman/Executive Director, Brentex Petroleum Services Limited, Sani Abubakar, said, “We have a company called Brentex Petroleum Services Limited. It is 100 per cent Nigerian-owned. None of us in the ownership and on the board carried dual nationality.

“The AKK story was never part of our plan. We did not come into all and gas to bring pipes into Nigeria. We never came in to join anybody to lay pipes. We were in Cairo for a different purpose during the Arab Springs and we ran into an NNPC official who told us about an advertisement.”

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Abubakar noted that Brentex was not into pipeline importation or construction.

A member of the committee, Sergius Ogun, also said, “There is practically nothing that Nigerians cannot do in the oil and gas industry. What is it that Nigerians cannot do that these five Chinese are doing here today? And you are still processing another 50. The law says that you can bring in expatriates, but it will have to be in the areas where you don’t have Nigerian expertise.”

Ogun urged the chairman of the committee to let the lawmakers “lift the veil on Wiz China, which partnered with Brentex to form the consortium. We know how this local content (law) has been abused in the past. I will move that we unveil the actual owners and Nigerians’ participation vis-à-vis the Chinese.”

Responding, Abubakar said, “Regarding the issue of quota, where the NCDMB gave us five and we are asking for 50; in the course of this project, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour were engaged… more than 10,000 people.

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“The Chinese Government is funding this project to the tune of $2bn and the content law – not my law – approves that the owner of that money should protect their interest first.

“The 50 you are talking about are our key engineers that work under the project manager, who is a Nigerian.”

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Bablinks, Bolaji Isiaka, told the committee how his firm contributed to Brentex securing the contract, only to be allegedly excluded after the Federal Government awarded the contract.

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