Ask anyone around to name individuals who have contributed to the putrefaction state of our country Nigeria, people who at one time or the other have been in power and used such position to siphon the collective wealth of all. You will get names like Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida the one they call ‘Maradona’, names like Sani Abacha the dreaded military junta whose looted loots we are yet to discover fully, James Ibori a onetime governor of the oil rich Delta State currently on vacation in the United Kingdom prison, Tafa Balogun the former police chief who was disgraced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Diepreye Alamieyesigha the former governor of Bayelsa state who suddenly transformed into a woman to escape judgment in the United Kingdom only to be given a pat-at-the-back sentence in Nigeria and later a jumbo presidential pardon.
Yes, these men are part of the reasons why Nigeria is where it is today, but before them was a man greater in corruption and embezzlement, he was the signature for fraud and blueprint for bribery. He was a minister of labour, minister of finance, a leader of the defaulted NCNC party, a business mogul and a trusted allay of the west. This man once increased the import duties on imported shoes in other to monopolize the then thriving leather industry. He was one of the few who sold our national wealth to the colonial rulers in other to cut corners. This man was High Chief Festus Okotie Eboh.
But I will rather save my anger on Festus Okotie Eboh for another day and concentrate on one of the landmark achievement historians have over time claimed he made in Nigeria, this is the bringing into our country the construction company who over the years has continue to promote injustice, corruption and bribery. The advent of the curse called ‘Julius Berger’
For a very long time Nigeria have been at the mercy of Julius Berger Plc, a low level construction company in Germany who through Nigeria metamorphosised into a gigantic pillar. Looking at Julius Berger as just another company will be under estimating its strength. To say the least this company has proven over time to be bigger than Nigeria or any leader ever appointed or elected in our nation’s history.
In 1975, when the capital was moved from Lagos to Abuja the federal government contracted the construction and design of the Aso Villa to Julius Berger, the project was so financially demanding that the government couldn’t pay fully in cash but with crude oil, that is just one. The security codes and access to the most secured house in Nigeria was entrusted to this alien company, you may not believe this but ask Al Mustapha about the event of 1993 when Abacha took over as the Head of State and how Julius Berger locked him out of Aso rock by refusing to give him the security codes to access the villa. Not that this is a bad development in face of politics bearing in mind Abacha came in by force but it is in the face of national security and a huge threat to our sovereignty as a nation. The interpretation of this is that Julius Berger can wake up one day and decide President Jonathan would not leave the villa by shutting the security system down or simply take over the government as its staff is granted access to the most secured area in the Villa without questioning under the disguise of maintenance.
The Villa is just one out of the lots; Julius Berger constructed the renowned International Conference Center (ICC) and was paid also with crude oil, JB as fondly called constructed the magnificent palace of the former head of state Ibrahim Babangida in Minna at a figure kept under oath.
In all of these one would have expected the German company to respect Nigerians but this is far different from what is at play; JB continue to belittle the Labour law and subject its staff to various degree of hardship and unfriendly treatments one of which is the transportation of its staff in a jam-packed ‘Molue’ like bus. It freely operates the disbanded Apartheid policy with construction of discriminatory health facilities, one for the whites, with adequate skilled personnel and drugs and the other for the common blacks (Nigerians) with quack doctors and limited drugs, in fact NAFDAC once closed done this section of the hospital for administering fake drugs to patients (Nigerian staff).
These are few of the tales of disservice of JB to its Nigerian staff; the greater ones are the massive fraud and continuous bribery, the company flows in. Name any big financial fraud in Nigeria and the name Julius Berger comes up.
In the famous Halliburton $180million fraud Julius Berger played an important role by helping to distribute the bribe to government officials, a fact it confessed to and later got a plea bargaining for at the tune of $26million. That is not all; JB was also involved in the Siemens bribery scandal where it acted as a channel for Willbros in distribution of $6.3million bribe to various government officials.
In the aviation sector Julius Berger also carved a niche for itself in corruption. In May 2009, FAAN contracted the supply of three CAT generating set to Julius Berger at a whooping sum of N228.258 million which the company failed to supply even though it got full payment for it and an additional N45million for fuelling equipments it never bought. Prior to that contract Julius Berger was paid N8.406 million for the top overhaul of generating sets 2 and 4 of the Airport, a service it never rendered.
In recent corrupt practices, Julius Berger inflated the expansion of the Abuja Airport Road and Outer Northern Expressway (ONEX) Project by N2billion claiming the margin was a mathematical error, in a similar scenario it suddenly increased the Vice President’s House contract already awarded to it for 7billion naira to a whopping 16billion naira with a huge margin of 9billion naira. That is not all; Julius Berger was awarded the refurbishing contract for the National Stadium recently for another mouthwatering 96million naira, a job the Super Eagles coach described as “a disaster” hard and sandy pitch, unable to withstand rainfall as the pitch becomes water logged”.
In all these it is evident Julius Berger is a vehicle of corruption in Nigeria. To be fair the blame shouldn’t be on this company alone after all none of these frauds would have been possible if we have a reasonable and accountable government but the truth is that we don’t have such and we know it.
These are not tales known to myself or any other individual in the media alone. More fact revealing evidence lies with the anti-corruption agencies and top government officials up to the presidency. But it is obvious the power that dines with Julius Berger is more powerful than that which dines with the president.
The government must standup against this curse and redeem what is left of our sanity. Our country may indeed be in bad shape, it may have a bad reputation far and wide but we don’t need another alien to rekindle our furnace of corruption, the footprints of our colonial masters is still very much evident in our social, economic and political lives. We won’t have another ‘master’ pull us down for their self benefit.
Government must take necessary actions against Julius Berger for these cruel acts against Nigerians and Nigeria and not award contract to it.
The agony of Julius Berger’s fraud and inconsistency is better recounted by men and women, young and old, who ply the recently awarded every day. Ever since the jamboree kickoff and the payment of the Lagos end of the road to Julius Berger, commuters experience on the road is better felt than said, but this is a matter for another day.
This curse must be cured no matter the might of the devil pulling the hypnosis. Julius Berger must shut up or shutdown!
Adekoya Boladale is a political scientist and wrote via [email protected] Please engage on twitter @adekoyabee