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CAMPUS LIFE: ‘I warned UNILAG building project contractor’

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Consultant to the Library building project, which partially caved in at the University of Lagos in February, Mr Oreoluwa Fadayomi, said he had warned the contractor, Mr Olatunde Runsewe, that the building could collapse if the proper steps were not taken and even refused to approve progress thereby delaying the project.

During Saturday’s inspection of the building by members of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement and the hearing that followed, the Committee disagreed with Fadayomi and Runsewe on whether part of the building collapsed or not.

While a member of the Committee, Solomon Maren, an engineer, said many other buildings that came down under construction nationwide had collapsed in similar way, both Fadayomi and Runsewe insisted that it was the  formwork, not the building itself that collapsed.

Fadayomi, Director of Landmark Integrated Technologies Limited, however, told the Committee that Runsewe’s Dutum Co Ltd workers lacked the expertise to complete the eight-storey library project, which he said should have been delivered since last November.

“The management of the contractor as it was (as at the time of incident)) cannot handle the continuation of the project. Here is a job we should have handed over in November last year and we are still on the first floor. And why were we on the first floor, because I was diligently monitoring and refusing to approve shoddy work and I was being blacklisted and blackmailed. We changed supervisor over three times becuase we said no. They would give us methodologies that would not work and we would say No. The Management; the staffing have to be overhauled to continue the project. If it is the same persons and process, Sir, my firm will withdraw from that project because we cannot continue to supervise at that level. They have to up their game if they have to continue,” he said.

When asked if the building could still stand or should be brought down, Fadayomi said there were ways to remedy the mistake of the contractor that led to the form work’s partial collapse, provided a new team was in charge of work at the site.

“The structure is sound.  We will retrofit it and make it work,” he said.

In his defense, Runsewe said he was competent to handle the construction as he had handled similar projects – such as the Senate Building of the Covenant University and that of the University of Ibadan, but the UNILAG Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Young Ogundipe informed the committee that Runsewe did not deliver the UI project on time.

Chairman of the Committee, Oluwole Oke, said the House of Representatives decided to investigate the project and others, following a letter by the university’s Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin, in which he drew attention to issues of alleged financial infractions and faulty project implementation.

“We are here pursuant of the resolution of the House mandating us to investigate the alleged infractions of provisions of public procurement Act 2007 and other financial issues. And we invited the stakeholders.

“Even though the regulators, the NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education have already taken steps, we felt that the allegations of the Pro-Chancellor were very weighty and we felt we should investigate his claims.”

The Committee asked the University management to provide documents of Council composition; minutes of meetings; actions and decisions; management presentation and composition  since the VC  resumed; audited accounts of the University in the period under review ( 2017-2019); procurement records and record of all projects.

As issues around procurement was at the heart of the probe, Oke underscored VC’s role as the chairman of the institution’s Tenders Board and the Procumemt Planning Board, and urged him to take full charge as he would be answerable to the government in case of any infractions.

“Part of the things we established was that there was no clear understanding of the functions of the Council and the Management of the Council. We drew the attention of the Council members to the provisions of Section 20 of the Procurement Act, which states that it is the Accounting Officer that has the mandate to manage, supervise and ensure compliance with the provisions of the Procurement Act. That has been stated clearly.

“The Accounting Officer of the University is the Vice Chancellor. And it is clearly stated in Section 20 that it shall be immaterial whether he has delegated a person or group of persons to carry out one function or the other, that in case of any infractions, he shall be personally liable. And we have drawn his attention to this provision that henceforth, he should take charge of things. If anything goes wrong the government will hold him responsible,” he said.

The building was only 25 per cent complete when the mishap happened and the contractor had been paid N444million of the N1.9 billion bill. Investigation into the matter continued last Monday in Abuja.

Other members of House Committee on Procurement at the hearing included: Dr Bode Ayorinde; Hon Gabriel Onyenwife; Hon Sam Onuigbo and Barrister Turin Abdullahi, who served as the Clerk.

Also, Management and Council members at the meeting were: Mr Lelan Lawal (Bursar); Mr Azeez Oladejo – Registrar; Prof Folasade Ogunsola (DVC Development Services); Prof Oluwole Familoni (DVC Academic and Research); Prof Foluso Lesi (Provost CMUL) and Mr Oloko Babatunde (Director, Works) and Prof Boniface Oye-Adeniran, who represented the Senate in Council, among others.

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