By Elijah Ojonicko AKOJI
ALMOST a year since the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) awarded a multi-million-naira contract for the installation of solar street lights in Jigawa North-West Senatorial District, WikkiTimes can reveal that there is no evidence of the work or the contractors on the ground.
The project was nominated by Senator Danladi Sankara, who represents Jigawa North-West Senatorial District at the upper legislative chamber.
Normally, a legislator is expected to identify the location and the kinds of projects to be implemented in their constituencies. After identifying the needs of their constituents, the National Assembly then reflects such needs in the budget of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, which then advertises the project in line with the Public Procurement Act.
The NHRC, a commission under the Ministry of Justice, under whose purview Senator Sankara nominated the Solar Street Lights Project, budgeted the sum of N80 million for the project in its 2020 national budget.
Records from Open Treasury show that the contract was awarded to Schramm Global Services Ltd and over N62 million was paid in two tranches to the company from the Federal Government.
WikkiTimes investigation reveals that Schramm Global Services Ltd received N32,980,448.80 in November 2020 and again the same amount in December that year but there is no evidence that the project was executed.
A search by WikkiTimes into the company’s profile on the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, verification page shows that the contractor was registered as a merchant and trade business in 2012, a business operation different from the contract it was awarded. This, according to the procurement laws, made Schramm Global Services Ltd unqualified to be awarded the contract.
The record also shows that the company’s status with the CAC has been inactive, meaning it has not been filing its annual returns as mandated by the CAC.
Despite the company being on track to be delisted by the CAC for inactivity, the Human Rights Commission handpicked it for the award of the multi-million naira project.
A visit by WikkiTimes to No. 3 Shuaibu Yola Street, Hotoro Kudu, Nassarawa, Kano State, listed by the CAC as the company’s address, revealed that no such company existed there.
Alkali Usaini, who said he has been living in the area for over 30, said that no company has ever operated on the street. The address, he said, has always been a residential address occupied by different families.
The company does not have a website or any online presence, WikkiTimes discovered.
Suleiman Abdullahi, Business Names officer of CAC in Jigawa state office, said: “Also when a company status shows inactive, that means the company has not been paying its annual return. Such a company stands the risk of losing its registration. An inactive company can’t be awarded a contract by either the state or federal government and even ministries or agencies.”
Disregard for the rule
The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) law clearly outlines the processes in the bidding and award of contracts. These requirements were brushed aside by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in awarding this contract to Schramm Global Services Ltd.
Checks by this medium on the Federal Tender Board record of 2020 confirmed that the Human Rights Commission did not advertise the project for other qualified contractors to tender bids as recommended by the procurement law.
The Public Procurement Act charges the BPP with the responsibility of preventing “fraudulent and unfair procurement” and applying administrative sanctions “where necessary.”
However, despite the company’s status, the BPP issued a “Certificate of No Objection” to clear the way for the Human Rights Commission to award the contract to the company, which had also been awarded other contracts by other federal agencies like the Hadejia Jama’are River Basin, among others.
While companies seeking contracts are required to provide tax clearance and audited accounts for the preceding three years, it is not known if Schramm Global Services Ltd presented any such documents.
LGA authorities’ residents deny benefiting
At Gagarawa Local Government Area, where residents still plied dilapidated roads, Muhammad Auwalu, the Deputy Chairman of the council denied that there is any such project by the commission in the LGA.
“All the street lights in Gagarawa LGA are Jigawa State Government project right from the time of the former governor of the state, before 2015. Most of the street lights you see are over eight years and there is no such project either as a constituency project from any commission between last year and this year aside from the new ones installed by this present administration.”
Salisu Muhammed, a resident of the LGA, also confirmed that there was no such project in the area, saying street lights are not hidden. If they had been installed, they would have been seen.
Babura Local Government, where the governor hails from, was not spared from the racketeering.
Alh Lawan Alaska on hearing about the project and the commission involved said he felt heartbroken by the news.
Across most of the communities visited, there are recently installed street lights lining newly constructed roads. In other areas, old ones are being replaced. But the ones for the constituency project awarded by NHRC is nowhere to be seen.
The Secretary to the Babura Local Council, Lawal Alaska said, “We can be deceived on paper, but in reality, we can’t be deceived. Since you have gone round and all you see is the governors’ project, that means we have been shortchanged and defrauded.”
Likewise, in Maigatari LGA where Mamuda Zakari, the Director of Admin labelled the street light project by the commission as fictitious.
“We have not heard of any project of street light by the commission in this local government till date. 2020 is not that far that we can’t remember if there was any such project the secretary will tell you better, but as far as I know, none has been executed in that name over here,” he said.
Gumel Local Government is one of the five Emirate councils in the state located in the senatorial district.
The Executive Chairman, Ahmad Gumel, in an interview with WikkiTimes, denied being aware of the project in the local government, saying he had not seen any record of the project since he assumed office a few months ago.
Muhammad Idris is the generator operator in charge of street lights in the emirate, while Habu Alhassan is the electrician in charge. Both confirmed that the state government owns and maintains all the street lights in the emirate.
“This street light which you can see are newly installed by the state government and this is the generator we use to power it. Aside from this, there are some other solar street lights installed by the state government in the LGA which we still manage. There is never a time I have come across any street light aside these by the government either in the name of constituency project by any commission or zonal intervention by any government agency in Gumel,” Idris said.
Habu Alhassan added, “if there is any new street light in Gumel, we will be among the first to know because we are the ones in charge of street lights in Gumel.”
In Sule Tankarkar Local Government Area, which makes up the senatorial district, there is also no evidence of the project.
Sule Ahmed Danzomo, the executive chairman of the LGA, declined to comment while Sule Habu, the secretary, said they are all new in office and cannot give out any information as regard projects in the LGA just yet.
Furthermore, Danladi Ibrahim, a retired LGA civil servant, in the local government said that the dilapidated street lights have long stopped working.
“It will be good news to see new and modern street lights in our LGA. The ones here are as old as most of the roads, which were constructed by the previous administration, I don’t think there has been any new street light by any commission in Sule Tankarkar in recent time that I know,” he said.
NHRC, Senator Sankara Ignore FOI Request, Calls
An FOI request to the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Commission, which received an acknowledgement, was never responded to. A reminder sent to the commission has also been ignored so far. Several calls put to the commission seeking clarifications on the fictitious project were also ignored.
The senator representing Jigawa North-West Senatorial District, Senator Danladi Sankara, also has neither answered calls nor responded to text messages to his phone number.
This story was produced in partnership with the Civic Media Lab under its Grassroots News Project.