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Protesting contractors to storm Agric Ministry again over N17bn debt

Contractors yet to be paid the N17 billion balance of the jobs awarded them by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2018 are planning to flock the agriculture minister’s office on Friday, some of them said Thursday.

Fifty of them had two days ago held a demonstration at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, demanding to have talks with Agric Minister Sabo Nanono or the permanent secretary, but were offered no chance of doing so.

“Nobody arrested us and none of them have spoken to us. We know that they may want to arrest us and claim that we are breaking the social distancing rule, but that will not deter us from asking for our money.

“Some of us have slated tomorrow (Friday) for another protest. We are still around and agitating for our payments. Since 2018, they held our money, over N17bn, and refused to pay us,” said Daniel Mozie who spoke on behalf of others.

He claimed that a number of them are dead while several others sold off their properties as pressure from their creditors mounted, adding that some were struggling hard to pay for house rents, kids’ school fees and even medication.

The contracts were fully self-financed, according to Mr Mozie, who disclosed that the finance minister earlier said that the contracts were 99.44% funded.

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“So why will they owe us? They told us that by 2019 they will pay. The appropriation for 2019 was funded and paid and they advertised for 2020 but yet they owe contractors for 2018.

“Their (FMARD) tradition is that they have a two-year procurement process. If you execute your job in 2017 and they were not able to pay, by the first quarter of 2018 they would clear the backlog and continue. That has always been their practice.

“But this permanent secretary came in and refused to pay us. We understand that he had some battle with the former permanent secretary; should that affect us?”

He remarked that they had spoken with the minister and the permanent secretary at least six times including all the directors, the former and the current directors of finance.

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