By Elijah AKOJI
Four out of the five contractors that received over N1 billion for installing solar streetlights in Adamawa State are the same individuals, but the projects were allegedly never executed, according to an investigation by WikkiTimes.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior special assistant on Sustainable Development Goals, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adedulire, facilitated the suspicious contracts.
ON the last day of 2019, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, made five suspicious payments summing up to over a billion naira.
The companies got the same amount of money to construct and install solar streetlights in Adamawa State.
However, an investigation by WikkiTimes reveals that four of the five companies belong to the same individuals, and the streetlights were never installed as proposed.
Concerned residents of the state have described it as a clear allegation of official stealing.
The projects were not captured in the federal government budget of 2019, but the contractors were paid in full all at once on December 31, 2019.
WikkiTimes uncovered that these projects were neither a grant from donor agencies nor in the 2019 appropriation but were categorised as zonal intervention projects.
The projects were purportedly meant to boost development in line with SDGs goal seven which requires governments to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
Had the projects been implemented in Adamawa as claimed, the streetlights would have contributed to beefing up security in parts of the state which have been under attack by terrorist groups.
Adamawa has been bedevilled by insecurity caused by the Boko Haram insurgency, which has displaced several families from their homes and has increased the number of IDPs in dire need of help, but those who masterminded the projects allegedly used the crisis as an opportunity to enrich themselves.
The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs is headed by Princess Adejoke Orelope Adefulire, a former deputy governor of Lagos State, between 2011 and 2015.
In addition to flagrantly violating the public procurement law, the office could not provide satisfactory evidence of carrying out the projects.
Records from Govspend. ng, an open contracting portal, shows that the companies received the sum of N217,749,257.14 each for the projects.
The contractors were Zaco Construction and Engineering Ltd, I.C Data Solution Ltd, Sakakah General Service Ltd, Emerald Brent & Onyx Ltd and Biosecureone Ltd.
Available public records show that in 2019 and 2020, as tracked by Budgit, the project was not executed even after the money was fully paid to the contractors.
After a careful examination of publicly available information, WikiTimes discovered that the projects were not executed as claimed despite evidence of the contractors receiving full payments. Not only that, four out of the five companies belong to the same individuals.
Records obtained from NG Checks and the Corporate Affairs Commission, which provide information about companies’ registration, owners and profiles, show that Zaco Construction and Engineering Ltd, Emerald Brent & Onyx Ltd, Biosecureone Ltd and I.C Data Solution Ltd are owned by the same persons.
The directors of Zaco Construction and Engineering Ltd are Maurice C. Ebo and Felix O Ebo while Emerald Brent & Onyx Ltd include Felix O Ebo and Udorah Anthony as the secretary. I.C Data Solution Ltd directors are Udorah Anthony, Emeka Davis, Emeka Ebiogwu, Terence Willis, and Dwayne Carso. Biosecureone Ltd directors include Maurice Chukwudi Ebo, Emeka Davis Ebo, Davis Emeka Ebo, Tony Ann Ebo and Michael Chijioke Ebo.
In addition, the companies were not qualified to get the contracts based on the public procurement law provisions.
For instance, I.C Data Solution Ltd is registered as an IT company with no commensurate expertise to handle the construction and installation of solar streetlights.
Checks by WikkiTimes also revealed that Biosecureone Ltd and I.C Data Solution Ltd share the same office address at No. 9 Portnovost, Wuse 2, Abuja, FCT, while Emerald Brent & Onyx Ltd and Zaco Construction and Engineering Ltd have their corporate offices at Aba, in Anambra state, also in the same location.
The fifth company, Sakakah Service Ltd, could not be located at the address it claimed on its portfolio at No 97 Adjacent Yahaya Gusau Road, Kano State.
When our correspondent visited the address, the location houses a mosque, while opposite the mosque was an empty land space directly by the roadside.
Contracts Violate Procurement Act
Section 58 of the Public Procurement Act of 2007 was definite about punishment when public officers violate the procurement procedures in the award and execution of contracts.
The law says offices found wanting in awarding contracts by defying due process are liable to five or ten years imprisonment, while section 38 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 says it was prohibited to award contracts to contractors without compliance with procurement rules.
Despite the laws ensuring no room for corruption, transparency and accountability in public procurement remain a mirage.
But the manipulation of the public procurement process is causing the country to lose 30 per cent of its resources, according to the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria, CIPSN.
The Institute has on several occasions called on the Federal Government to quickly reverse the trend by constituting the National Council on Procurement that will come up with policies in line with international best practices.
While tracking the projects, Musa Anthony, Adamawa State BudgIT monitoring officer, told WikkiTimes that no such projects exist in both 2019 and 2020 appropriation for the state from the Federal Government.
Musa expressed shock that such an amount of money could be released by the Federal Government for unsubstantiated projects.
A visit to the projects’ locations was purportedly sited shows no trace of such work.
At Gierei in Jimeta in Yola, the reporter noticed an ongoing 2020 project that looks like the one the reporter was tracing—a construction of Type A-B primary healthcare centre and diagnostic centre, installation of 150 solar streetlights, construction of solar-powered boreholes and construction of doctor’s transit quarter.
Although there are several solar streetlights across the state, residents and state government officials claim the streetlights were provided by the state, not the Federal Government.
For instance, in Zango street, there were four solar streetlights, but two were no longer working at the time of visit.
One was erected at Dobeli Junction in Yola North LGA. Four solar streetlights were also installed, one directly opposite Justice Goje shops, while another was directly in front of the mosque at Federal Housing Estate.
Yahaya Allhassan, a resident in the estate, told WikkiTimes that the state government provided all the solar streetlights.
“We can’t remember such a project coming from the presidency,” Yahaya said.
“The Adamawa State Government carried out this project. If this is an SDG project from the Federal Government, there will be an indication to show, and you can see for yourself there is none. It might have been done somewhere else, definitely not here.”
The reporter later discovered that the projects were not similar, and none of the contractors that got the money from the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs installed any of the streetlights on the ground.
“You know how tricky these government officials can be when executing projects,” Yahaya continued.
“If this project had been executed, it would have been on our tracked project for 2019, and this is a very big project with a huge amount of money. There needs to be a lot of questioning both from the side of the contractors and the office of the Senior Special Assistance to the president of SGDs.
“That is if they will be available to respond. Their usual silence is a take-home gift we are used to when we approach them,” said Anthony, the Adamawa State BudgIT monitoring officer.
Muhammad Tukur, the Special Adviser to the governor of Adamawa State on New Media, while responding to questions on whether the state government was aware of the purported projects, he said, “It is distressing to know, as a Nigerian, that the Nigerian Government, which is in debt, could make such a huge expenditure with no evidence, and explanation for its action.
“They are lying to say they have executed such a project in Adamawa State. Go back and tell them to come and show us the exact location where these projects have been executed, and we are ready to appraise them. Why will people make false claims just because they want to steal?”
When WikkiTimes reached out to the Adamawa State Planning Commission to enquire about projects, the commission said it was hearing of the projects for the first time.
Sarki Labaran, Director of Project Monitoring, Adamawa State Planning Commission, said: “One billion? This is a whole lot of money. I am not sure if there is any such project in Adamawa State. If there is, we will have a record of such a project. Indeed this is a huge developmental project. There has to be a record for such a project. Kindly contact the implementing body to provide you with full details of where the project was executed. We would like to know as we are also ready to follow up.”
Misleading claims on the project purported execution
When WikkiTimes reached out to the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDG, Desmond Utomwen, media officer to the SSA, claimed that the projects had been executed and were willing to provide evidence.
After waiting for over three weeks, Utomwen sent about 100 pictures as evidence that the streetlights were installed, but checks by WikkiTimes show that the photographs he claimed were streetlights installed by Senator Aishatu Binani, representing Adamawa central.
“The office of the SSA to the President cannot award projects without execution,” Utomwen said. “All of the streetlights have been installed, and we can provide you with all the pictures of the streetlights at different locations in the State.”
He declined to respond to why the projects were not captured in the budget and why four companies that belong to the same individuals got the contracts.
The mismanagement of the projects is a poor reflection of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who vowed upon the assumption of office in 2015 to fight corruption. But just under his nose in the presidency, public funds are allegedly being stolen in a bold manner as these streetlights projects in Adamawa.
This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.