by Emmanuel Leke,
Contracts worth about N1.3 billion were awarded to about 20 contractors without traceable addresses in the North East, the Senate said on Thursday.
Part of the contracts was for the cutting of grasses.
The Senate said its investigations so far in locating the companies have not yielded fruits.
The Chairman of the Senate AdHoc Committee probing the contracts, Senator Shehu Sani, revealed this, after the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, failed to show up for the investigative hearing.
Sani said the Committee, known as the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, was not out to witch-hunt Lawal, but for him to offer explanations on the perceived shortcomings noticed in the award and executions of the contracts since his office oversees the Presidential Initiative on the North-East, which is in charge of the rehabilitation of the North East.
Sani told newsmen: “Now, we are set to invite all those persons.
“It was supposed to be today, but, unfortunately, it could not happen.
“Meanwhile, you should understand that we are not investigating the SGF alone.
“We are investigating contracts that were awarded under the PINE.
“And over 20 companies were involved, but something very strange is the fact that some of these companies involved in these contracts, we cannot actually trace their addresses.
“We went there but they were not there.
“The option before us is to either report that they are ghost companies or we keep on searching until we find them.
“But it is most likely that it will be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for us to find some of these names here.”
Sani had at the plenary on Thursday stated that the panel would pursue its mandate to a conclusion, insisting that Lawal and others summoned must appear before it.
He said the panel received a letter from Lawal that he had an official engagement which clashed with the date and time of his appearance on Thursday.
Sani said the letter was different from the one in which Lawal said he would not appear before the lawmakers as he had instituted a legal action against the legislature.
He said: “We were scheduled to hold a public hearing today to give a second opportunity to those persons who were either deliberately or conspicuously absent in the first sitting (hearing) we had last year.
“Today, the newspapers were awash with reports that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, has taken us to court to restrain our committee from doing its work.
“We have yet to receive any court order (originating summons) in that respect, perhaps later.
“But what we did receive is a letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”
The letter, dated March 22, 2017, was addressed to Sani.
It read: “Your letter of invitation to appear before the above committee refers.
“I wish to kindly request that you draw the attention of the other members of the committee that l will not be able to appear before the committee primarily because of a pressing engagement of government which clash with the date and time of the hearing.
“I kindly request (a) rescheduling of the hearing, please.”
After reading the letter, Sani said: “There are people who believe in the quote of Shakespeare, which says:
‘The hell is empty, all the devils are here.’
“But I will say it in another word.
“The same Shakespeare says: ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men.’
“I believe we should take this as a challenge.
“The Senate committee will give a new date for hearing and we assure this Senate and the people of the
North-East that the committee will deworm, disinfect and fumigate the north eastern part of Nigeria with the job which we are going to do.”