Delta State University embroiled in over N179 million abandoned contract fraud

By Sunday ELOM

*JONATHAN Chris was smiling to himself as he watched with keen interest some postgraduate students receiving training inside a section of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Directorate Hall in Campus II of Delta State University, Abraka (DELSU), where he works as an ICT staff.

With a burning desire to sit like them one day and receive training that would either lead to his promotion or better employment opportunity in a big tech or ICT firm, Chris regularly watches people – sometimes students and staff of the university or others outside the university being trained.

Of course, Chris would have received at least such training between April and July 2019 if the contract awarded to Goldmark Concepts Limited by his employer, DELSU, which included training of the institution’s ICT staff, had been fully executed.

Every year, the Delta State government budgets billions of naira and awards several projects in the state’s university in Abraka and other tertiary institutions across the state to improve the teaching and learning system of institutions of higher learning.

However, just like the abandoned procurement, installation and testing of equipment and training projects awarded by Delta State University, Abraka, some of these projects, despite their anticipated benefits, have ended up abandoned or poorly implemented.

Unfortunately, some low-income and financially deprived citizens send their children and wards to the state government-owned tertiary institutions, including DELSU, because it is believed that tuition fees are more affordable in public institutions.

According to the documents of approved budgets of Delta State, the state government in 2019 allocated the sum of N4.8 billion (N4,890,879,366) to the Delta State University and in 2020, the state government allocated a total of N15.3 billion (N15,683,390,489) to the Ministry of Higher Education.

The 2021, 2022 and 2023 budget documents showed that Delta State government allocated a total of N82.9 billion (N82,969,569,193.75) to the Ministry of Higher Education, while Delta State University got the sum of N14 billion (N14,147,020,880) budget for the three years.

However, despite the huge amount of money budgeted and disbursed yearly by the state government to provide optimum teaching and learning environments for students of these schools, people have continued to be denied dividends of their state’s resources with the multiple abandoned projects across many tertiary institutions in the state.

Contract first awarded to Goldmark Concepts Limited

On April 23, 2019, the office of the Registrar of DELSU, Abraka issued a contract document for procurement, installation and testing of equipment and training of some university personnel to Goldmark Concepts Limited at the sum of N179.4 million (N179,482,630.45).

The contract document signed by the then Registrar, Daniel A. Urbibo, stated that the contractor must procure high-quality equipment accessories and install them according to the specification in the execution of the contract and that the completion period of the contract was 10 weeks.

The letter stated that the contract was awarded to Goldmark Concepts Limited following the decision of the NEEDS Assessment Tenders Board of the University at its meeting held on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

Contract document issued to Goldmark Concepts Limited by DELSU management

“In addition, the award is subject to the following terms: the contract sum is one hundred seventy-nine million, four hundred and eighty-two thousand, six hundred and thirty naira, forty-three kobo (N179,482,650.43) only, its completion period is ten (10) weeks. Your company must procure high-quality equipment accessories and installed to specification in the execution of the contract.

“Payments shall be subject to statutory deduction of taxes. Payment shall be subject to statutory deduction of 1% of the contract sum as Stamp Duty in line with section (1) of the Stamp Duties Act $8 LFN 2001 (as amended). Any delay without reasonable cause shall vitiate the contract.

“The award shall be subject to a formal agreement with the University; and the Director, Physical Planning Division, shall inspect and certify that the said contract has been satisfactorily executed,” the Registrar added.

Goldmark Concepts Limited re-awards contract to another company

In May 2019, the contractor, Goldmark Concepts Limited, a company which identified its focus as general contractor and supply of entrepreneurship equipment, laboratory equipment, computer equipment, building and construction and with offices in Zaria, Lagos, Benin, Lokoja and Abuja, re-awarded the contract to Bigo Computers and Ventures (Information Technology) at the sum of N39,090,000.00 to be completed within four weeks.

Alaba Ifeoluwa, who signed the contract letter dated May 22, 2019, on behalf of Goldmark Concepts Limited, simply reproduced the entire details of the N179 million contract letter given to Goldmark Concepts Limited by the Delta State University, Abraka, except for the contract sum.

Contract document issued to Bigo Computers & Ventures by Goldmark Concepts Limited
Contract document issued to Bigo Computers & Ventures by Goldmark Concepts Limited

The letter given to Bigo Computers & Ventures by Goldmark Concept added that the award of the contract was “Sequel to the submission of your Pro-forma Invoice on ICT equipment, your company has been awarded the contract for the Procurement, Installation and Testing of Equipment and Training of University Personnel in the Delta State University, Abraka.

“Consequently, the contract for the Procurement, Installation and Testing of Equipment and Training of University Personnel in the Delta State University, Abraka, is hereby awarded to Bigo Computers and Ventures, 6, Kaduna Dye-Pass, Wusasa, Zaria, Kaduna State, in the sum of Thirty-nine million, ninety Thousand Naira (N39,090,000.00) only for a completion period of four (4) weeks.”

DELSU, Goldmark Concepts refuse to account for the project

Following our findings before and during a visit to DELSU in Abraka, a Freedom of Information letter was submitted to the office of the Registrar of the University on September 28, 2023, requesting details of the contract, including payment details, as required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2011.

Although the Act specifies seven days to provide the information requested, till the time of filing this report, DELSU acknowledged the letter but never provided the requested information on the contract nor offered any explanation as to why it would not or may not provide the details of the contract as requested.

Also, when contacted for an explanation on the contract, the former Registrar, Urhibo, who signed the contract letter, simply told the reporter that he could not answer any questions as he has since retired.

“I am no longer in service. I have retired and I can’t speak about the contract. Go to the university and get your information,” he stated.

Freedom of Information letter sent to DELSU
Freedom of Information letter sent to DELSU

Similarly, when contacted, the Manager of Goldmark Concepts Limited, Samuel Adams, claimed that the project was executed but refused to give details of how this was done, saying that he was not in the right position to speak about the matter.

“I am the manager of Goldmark Concepts but I am not in the right position to speak about the project. It is the director that can give you the details but all I know is that the project has been completed and the university has approved it,” Adams said on the phone.

Efforts to reach the director of Goldmark Concepts Limited, Sunday Ifeoluwa, and the former Vice Chancellor of DELSU, Prof Victor Peretomode, failed as neither of them answered several calls made to their phone numbers.

To get Delta State University to speak on the state of the contract and our findings, several calls were made to the phone number of the current Public Relations Officer of the university, Clinton Sagboje, for three days but none of the calls were answered.

Text messages and a WhatsApp message were sent to him but though the messages were delivered, he had not replied to any of them as of the time of filing this report.

ICT Directorate (Centre), Delta State University, Abraka/ photo by Sunday Elom

While making further attempts to get reactions from DELSU, during his visit to the University’s campuses in Abraka, our reporter met with the Deputy Director of ICT at Campus 2, who refused to disclose his name or speak about the project but directed our reporter to the office of the Registrar.

When our reporter submitted the FOIA letter, he requested to speak with the Registrar, but he was turned down with a promise that the university would respond to the letter appropriately. However, it had not done so as of the time of filing this report.

Also, at the Asaba campus of the university, our reporter was denied access to the ICT Centre but a middle-aged man at the entrance of the ICT Centre who confirmed that he was a staff member of the school and simply gave his name as Johnson, said, “There were some ICT equip supplied to the campus in 2020 but that I cannot say anything about its standard or who exactly procured it.”

He, however, also said that “there was never any training conducted for the ICT staff on the campus by any company identified either as Goldmark Concepts Limited or Bigo Computers and Ventures.”

Goldmark Concepts provided non-existing address to CAC

Following failed several attempts to get details of the contract the Goldmark Concepts Limited Manager, Samuel Adams, claimed has been completed and approved by the university, our reporter visited the company’s registered address in Zaria, Kaduna State to see if he could speak with one of its officials.

However, our reporter’s visit to Goldmark Concepts Limited’s registered address at 11d Aminu Road, Sabon-Gari, Zaria, Kaduna State showed that the company has no office at the location.

It was discovered that Aminu Road in Sabon Gari- Zaria is a road from Muchiya Roundabout to Sabon Gari Market, while No. 11D, Aminu Road is a building facing Sabon Gari Central Market, beside Kasuwan Mata Divisional Police Headquarters.

The ground floor of the building (No. 11D Aminu Road) is a block of shops selling kitchen utensils while the 1st and 2nd floors are residential apartments. There is nothing like Goldmark Concepts Limited office at the said location.

Bigo Computers speaks on deal with Goldmark, procured substandard equipment with no training conducted

When contacted for an explanation on the contract awarded to his company by Goldmark Concepts (the contractor DELSU originally gave the contract), the Director of Bigo Computers & Ventures, MrOlalekan S. Adegoke, explained how he got the contract, procured some equipment which he confessed were below the standard recommended by the Tertiary Education Fund (TETfund).

Adegoke said, “I was in Goldmark’s house on a Sunday before a letter (of the contract) was awarded to me to discuss the project and the following week, I started the project.

“The letter he gave to me was not part of the contract initially. I was only to help him get the equipment and he would move it to wherever he wanted to move it to.

“But in the course of doing that, he couldn’t release all the money as we discussed. I then said that for me to get the remaining equipment for him, he has to give me a letter to show that we have a deal which is why I was to get the equipment. The letter would show details of what he wanted to use the equipment for.

“When I got to his house, he confirmed to me that the contract was for the former Vice Chancellor, Prof Victor Peretomode.

“He made a verbal promise to me that I would be paid N5 million if I ccarried out the contract for them. At that point, I agreed because I was after what I would get, not after what anybody was doing.”

Adegoke further explained, “When he couldn’t get the money to me, when he sent the letter as I requested, instead of sending a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that he had given me the responsibility to buy the equipment, with the list of the equipment and even adding price tags with his company name and my company, he sent a letter of contract award.

“He duplicated the letter the university gave to him. He edited the letter, removed the price the university awarded the contract to them and put my own price.

“So, if the university didn’t know that he gave me a letter, when the problem started, the Commissioner for Education invited the university, Goldmark and I twice with formal letters.

“The Registrar (former) and the Bursar were at the meetings, and they knelt down begging me not to go to the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), therefore, the school knows now.”

He told our reporter that the Delta State Ministry of Education invited the Managing Director of Goldmark Concepts Limited, Sunday Ifeoluwa, but he ignored the invitations. He added that according to the letter Goldmark gave him, DELSU’s director of physical planning must validate whatever he did before payment can be made to Goldmark.

He also said that Goldmark Concepts Limited is a book-selling company, not an IT company, hence, “it is not qualified to carry out the kind of contract awarded to it by DELSU.”

“The former DELSU Vice Chancellor owns the contract which he gave to Goldmark and they shared the N140 million they have stolen,” Adegoke also alleged.

He, however, claimed that he procured the equipment in the list Goldmark gave to him from one Mr. Ifeanyi of Vintage System Ventures in Ikeja Computer Village, but because of price difference and balance of the equipment he bought on credit, Mr. Ifeanyi told him that he was arrested on June 26 and 27, 2019 respectively by the operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) in Lagos for interrogation to ascertain the prices he bought the equipment.

“But I also know that it was not the TETFund (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) specification that he bought for the school. I have their invoice but I have decided not to give it to anyone.”

Adegoke said still owed Mr. Ifeanyi for the equipment he bought following Goldmark’s refusal to pay him.

He said, “The university has said they have asked Goldmark Concepts Limited to pay me, that if Goldmark fails to pay me, it is not their business.

“The university called Goldmark and I together in a panel review, and the university knows what really happened and what has not been done in the contract, and the university recommended that I should be paid,” he said.

However, he refused to provide evidence of the equipment he said he procured from Mr. Ifeanyi in Lagos including invoices for the equipment.

He insisted that all the documents and evidence he has are what he will present in court and every effort to get him to release the evidence to substantiate his claims failed as he refused to release the evidence.

Meanwhile, he said that the university gave the contractor, Goldmark Concepts, a certificate of job completion “because the management shared the money with him. N140 million was shared by these people, yet the contract was not carried out to the latter.

“As I speak to you, DELSU has dropped documents showing N130 million was paid to Goldmark Concepts Limited with respect to this contract. The university has not been able to explain what happened to N49 million.

“The contract till today is not completed. I was the one who purchased the equipment. Some of the equipment supplied is never TETFund specifications.

“On my letter of N39 million (N39,090,000), there is installation and training which till today was not carried out, plus other things detailed to that contract. Till now, it was not done, yet the university gave contract completion certificate to Goldmark Concepts Limited because I know they shared the remaining N140 million.

“I didn’t conduct any training for anyone. Bigo Computers & Ventures did not conduct any training for anybody.

“They wrote training on the contract letter but training on what? Training for how long? Training with what? Samuel Adams should explain who conducted the training, where they conducted the training, number of DELSU ICT staff that were trained, what they were trained on.”

When contacted, Ifeanyi confirmed that Adegoke approached him with a contract of over N30 million but had N18 million.

Ifeanyi lamented that after a long time when Adegoke failed to pay him the money, the colleague from whom he collected some of the equipment and gave to Adegoke mounted pressure on him, forcing him to sell off his car to pay the woman.

He added that Adegoke had been presenting different invoices he got from where he did not buy equipment as evidence.

“There is a woman I collected some equipment from and gave to Adegoke and the woman’s balance was about N8 million. I had to sell my car to settle the woman, yet, I’m still owing her about N2.7 million,” he said.

Ifeanyi said that Adegoke took four processors that were sold for N800,000 then, and two servers that were sold for N2.6 million.

However, like Adegoke, Ifeanyi promised to provide evidence for the transactions but subsequent efforts to get the evidence including the invoice from him failed as he no longer answered calls made to his phone number nor replied to messages sent to him till the time of filing this report.

Violation of procurement law

Section 15(1) (a) and (b) of the Procurement Act, 2007 provided that “The provisions of this Act shall apply to all procurement of goods, works and services carried out by (a) the Federal Government of Nigeria and all procurement entities;

“(b) all entities outside the foregoing description which derive at least 35% of the funds appropriated or proposed to be appropriated for any type of procurement described in this Act from the Federation share of Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

However, without obtaining a “Certificate of ‘No Objection’ to Contract Award” from the Bureau of Public Procurement, Delta State University, Abraka failed to revoke the contract it awarded Goldmark Concepts Limited when it (DELSU) found out that the contractor had rewarded the project to another contractor without its written approval.

    Also, according to the Procurement Act provision on entities that are qualified to engage in public procurement, it was a violation of the law for Goldmark Concepts Limited to award a contract to Bigo Computers & Ventures.

    Goldmark does not fall into the category of entities that derive at least 35% of the funds appropriated or proposed to be appropriated for any type of procurement from the Federation share of Consolidated Revenue Fund.

    With an estimation of about 22,000 students in Delta State University, Abraka, according to 2019/2020 population figure of the institution, underfunding and underequipped of higher institution facilities, corruption leading to the abandonment of several projects and unaccountability, have, to a large extent, subjected the academic lives of students of DELSU and other institutions in the state to certain level of deprivations and difficulty.

    This investigation, republished from Sahara Reporters is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

    Support the ICIR

    We invite you to support us to continue the work we do.

    Your support will strengthen journalism in Nigeria and help sustain our democracy.

    If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Support the ICIR

    We need your support to produce excellent journalism at all times.

    - Advertisement