Contractors, who were awarded the development of the Lagos Homs Housing Scheme, Iponri, have kicked against the manner in which the Lagos State Government terminated their contracts and forcefully took over the project.
Contracts for the construction of 132 apartments in 11 blocks were awarded to the contractors on March 10, 2014, with a completion period of 52 weeks.
It was learnt that the apartments, which are already at 85 to 90 per cent completion stage, were delayed due to non-payment by the government.
It was gathered that in December 2018, the government informed the contractors of its intention to terminate their contracts as well as hand over the project to a private investor owing to lack of funds to complete it.
However, the contractors alleged that on January 14, 2019, the government brought in a new security outfit, whose personnel denied them entry into the premises.
One of the contractors, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said besides the fact that the takeover was unlawful, there was no way a takeover could happen without the official termination of the contracts and the payment of the contractors by the government.
He said, “In December 2018, we were summoned to a meeting by the Commissioner for Housing, but we were addressed by the Permanent Secretary. In the meeting, we were told that the government was going to terminate our contracts, because it no longer had the money to complete the project and that it was bringing in private investors to take it over. We were subsequently summoned to the site and they did the valuation of the job already done.
“On Monday, January 14, 2019, we learnt from our hired security guards on the site that officials from Alausa had come around and they had installed their private guards; they prevented our security guards from carrying out their duties. When we went there to ascertain what we were told, the gate was shut and we were denied entrance. The new guards said they had firm instructions from the Alausa officials that we shouldn’t be allowed on the premises.
“We cannot say that the government should not terminate the contracts but before that can be done, they should pay us whatever is due and not something to be negotiated after they had taken over. The contractors still have their tools, equipment and materials on site and we do hope that there will be no security breach regarding our assets.”
Another contractor, who also declined to give his name, said another reason for their agitation was to protect the public interest.
He stated, “Our agitation is also about protecting the public interest, because those flats have been advertised for sale and forms have been sold to people a long time ago; the three-bedroom is to be sold for N30m and the two-bedroom for N25m. So, what happens to the subscribers? They are public property and the buildings should have been completed a long time ago.
“They said the state needed money; all they should have done is to demand deposits from people and from the deposits collected from subscribers, they can pay the contractors to complete the project.
“Who are these faceless investors? Is the public interest being protected? Because of the state of the buildings at the moment, they are practically completed. How can you terminate contracts at that level? It doesn’t make sense.
“They wrote to us about the intention to terminate but rather than giving us a letters of termination, they gave us a letter to handover, which is putting the cart before the horse. The normal thing for them to do is to terminate first and in the course of doing that, they should pay all outstanding debts after which there will be a handover.”
While addressing the contractors during a meeting attended by our correspondent on Thursday, January 17, 2019 which was called to resolve the dispute, the Deputy Director, Ministry of Housing, one Ibitoye, an architect, said the contractors would be paid as soon as the 2019 budget was signed into law.
He also stated that the contractors were allowed to contest the valuation done, adding that the letter of termination could be worked out.
Ibitoye, however, could not justify why there had to be a takeover of the project without going through the due process of termination and payment of the contractors.
He said, “We have done the valuation of all the buildings and these will be certified by you (contractors). If there is anything that you do not agree with, we will iron it out; once that is ironed out, both parties will sign. What we are planning to do is that after the budget is signed, all payments will be approved for disbursement.
“Each contractor will enumerate all the items in the buildings and those who have security guards on their individual buildings will have to tell them to vacate for the new security outfit to take over.
“It is in the best interest of everyone to allow this transition to go smoothly.”
When the Commissioner of Housing, Gbolahan Lawal, was contacted, he said the ministry was still in discussion with the contractors, adding that the claims of the contractors were not true.
“What they have claimed is not true; that’s not the true position of things. The ministry is still in discussion with the contractors; we have a meeting with them on Thursday. They will let you know the true position of things after the meeting,” he said