By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
There was a mild drama sitting of the Federal House of Representatives’ Committee on FCT when the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim stated that the panel lacked the capacity to invite him to account for the sum of $18b.
The sum was the construction of a new city in the FCT to commemorate the centenary of the founding of the country by the colonialist in 2014.
Anyim who was a one time Senate President had been summoned alongside a former Minister of the FCT, Alhaji Bala Mohammed who like him served in the regime of the immediate past government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan over the 18 billion dollars Centenary City project.
Trouble started when the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Herman Hembe alleged several infractions in the agreement signed by the office of the SGF during the tenure of Anyim and management of the Centenary City Company Plc.
According to Hembe, the spirit of the said agreement violated the Federal Government Gazette on Land Swap Programme, which ought to be the guideline for the project.
The committee also established that the former minister signed the Right of Occupancy and the Certificate of Occupancy of the land on the same day in violation of provisions of the gazette.
According to Hembe, the lifespan of the project implementation as contained in the gazette should be between 24 to 48 months as against 60-120 weeks stated in the contractual agreement.
He also noted that the private developers were not allowed to sell any portion of the land until it attains 35 per cent development level, but the company was also granted a waiver in that regard.
The chairman added that that there was no evidence that the company paid the 15 per cent of 18 billion dollars expected as initial payment for the development of the city.
Reacting, Anyim accused the chairman of the committee of being “insensitive, rude; conducting a public hearing with ulterior motive’’.
Anyim expressed reservations over the invitation sent to him by the Clerk of the committee, saying that the manner of invitation degrades his person as a former Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly.
“Mr Chairman, if you want me to appear before you, I have no issue with that; but I cannot accept any attempt to subject me to disrespect.
“You cannot ask a committee clerk to invite me to appear before you, it is unacceptable, even you, Mr Chairman, you are not qualified to sign such letter of invitation to me.
“Please if you need the attention of any former chairman of the National Assembly, get the Clerk of the National Assembly to sign such letter,” Anyim said.
Also speaking, the former minister noted that the committee had inadequate understanding of the project.
Muhammad said that he received a letter from the Presidency on October 21, 2013, which permitted him to vary former president Goodluck Jonathan’s initial directive on the project.
Argument, however, erupted among members when a member of the committee, Linus Okorie moved a point of order that was ruled out of order by the chairman of the committee.
Okorie observed that a later Presidential directive on the project allowed the use of government funds, as against the chairman’s believe that it was meant to be a 100 per cent private sector investment.
The chairman noted during the hearing that Jonathan approved the project as purely private sector driven and guided by the Land Swap Gazette of the FCT.
Anyim to probe panel: ‘You can’t summon me to account for $18b project’
By Wahab Akanji, Abuja