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Signoff: David Taylor

I FIND myself this week at the centre of a significant financial transaction involving a series of infrastructure projects in Nigeria - it's so exciting!

Let me explain. Last week I received - quite out of the blue - an email from a Mr Isaac Uzo, executive director with the Ministry of Public Works in Lagos and secretary of the Government tenders committee.Mr Uzo has discovered that his department is in possession of an 'overdue account' totalling some US$14.5 million - and he doesn't know what to do with it.

Actually he does know what to do with it.With commendable initiative, Mr Uzo has decided to invest the money in a major road building project - after all, he can't just leave the money lying there doing nothing, can he?

Trouble is, no domestic contractors are capable of handling a project of this size, so Mr Uzo wants to procure an overseas contractor. I don't quite follow the financial and legal complexities, but what it boils down to is that Mr Uzo needs me to look after his US$14.5 million for a little while before payment can be made to his new contractor.

He says a 'close associate' put him in touch with me - I therefore assume his friend must be an avid reader of Construction News.

I'm rather flattered. In fact I'm cock-a-hoop because, in return for rendering this small service, I get to keep 25 per cent of the total sum.That's a cool US$3.6 million just for letting someone swell my coffers for a few weeks! I promise I won't let this windfall change me. In fact over the past few weeks I have had to become accustomed to the imminent prospect of fabulous wealth.

This is because I already stand to receive US$1.5 million from a Nigerian barrister, Mr Douglas Martins; US$4.5 million from Mr Abdul Wahab of O&O, a Nigerian oil company; another US$3.6 million from Dr Peter Makori, a South African civil servant; US$4 million from Justin Mkulu, eldest son of a wealthy Zimbabwean winegrower who was done over by the fiend Mugabe; and US$3 million from Nasir Ahmed, a social worker who found US$15 million cash in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.All Signoff readers to a man, it seems.

Oh, and I've won £250,000 on the National Lottery without even buying a ticket - a mere bagatelle, but nice all the same.

You needn't worry, I'll keep my feet firmly on the ground; after all, I'm still nowhere near as rich as Sir Anthony Bamford. But if I seem a little smug it's only because I haven't had to work as hard as him.

HAVE you noticed how everybody's talking about the Freedom of Information Act? It's a new toy designed to entertain journalists and politicians.

So that's why we've been reading about what Norman Lamont said to John Major just before our membership of the ERM went tits up.And that's why the Tories have been asking what Tony Blair had for breakfast on a particular day, and with whom.

As if we really needed to know.

The Act does have its uses, though.

A colleague applied under the Act to get information from the HSE about the Canary Wharf crane accident.He was told he couldn't have the info he wanted until after the investigation is complete.

Fair enough.

'How many applications have you received under the Freedom of Information Act?' inquired my friend. Eventually the answer came back: 790.

'And how many of those did you grant permission to?' asked my friend.

'That's classified, ' came the reply.'You'll have to apply for that information under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act' Nice piece of legislation, that.

cneditorial@emap. com