N5.2b REA scam: Gekpe, others exceeded approval limits – Witness

A Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting at Gudu District, Abuja and presided over by Justice Adebunkola Banjoko, was on Monday told that Engr. Samuel Ibi Gekpe and six other senior officials of the Rural Electrification Agency, standing trial in a N5.2 billion scam instituted against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, exceeded their approval  limit in awarding the contracts to companies allegedly belonging to them.
The other accused persons are Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu, Simon Kirdi Nanle, Engr. Lawrence Kayode Orekoya, Abdulsamad Garba Jahun and Barrister Kayode Oyedeji.

Speaking at the resumed hearing of the case, a retired director in the Federal  Ministry of Power, Y. A. Shamaki, while being led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinhero, SAN, submitted that the authority that issued exhibits 161 and 162, which were “Certificates of No Objection”  to the contracts, had no power to do so because of the cumulative amount involved, which exceeded the threshold.
He said the power to issue such certificates, which actually is the power authorising contractual engagements whenever the amount exceeds N50 million, is solely that of the Federal Executive Council. 
The contracts were lumped together, making the total sum much more than the threshold that the agency was authorised to award without approval from the Federal Executive Council.
Shamaki had, in an earlier testimony, said that the option of direct procurement, which was adopted by Gekpe and his co-accused persons, was not necessary because there was no monopoly as there were other suppliers of the product.
His view corroborated that of another witness, Mr. Nasir Bello, an assistant procurement officer with the Bureau of Public Enterprise, who testified that the agency did not carry out any tender exercise and evaluation for both the grid and solar contracts, but rather a list of contractors were selected and awarded contacts.
He stated that none of the companies awarded the contracts was on the list of pre-qualified companies forwarded by the ministry nor the projects advertised in any of the national dailies as required by the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
According to him, a selective tendering process was adopted for the procurement and that though companies were pre-qualified based on the six geopolitical zones, REA failed to provide the criteria and scores of the pre-qualification exercise.
Shamaki was later crossed examined by Paul Erokoro, SAN, alongside counsel to other accused persons.
The former REA officials were initially arraigned on 158 count charges in May 2009 but later amended to 68 count charges on October 30, 2009.
Adebunkola, after listening to the testimony of the prosecution witness, adjourned the case to March 19 and 20 for further hearing.