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World Bank blacklists four Nigerian firms for procurement fraud

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THE World Bank has suspended at least four Nigerian firms for engaging in procurement frauds.

One of the firms is Sargittarius Nigeria Limited, located at 22B Adebayo Doherty Road, Lekki Phase 1 Lagos. The second delisted company is Sargittarius Henan Water Conservancy Engineering Limited. Both firms share the same address and were sanctioned on the same date –  30 August, as contained in the official database of the World Bank.

They specialise in hydro-engineering and construction such as dam and waterworks construction, surface and underground water supply schemes, and erosion flood control.

Asbeco Nigeria Limited is the third company debarred on 25 May by World Bank. According to the public record, its office is located at 10 Effanga Mkpa Street, State Housing Estate, Calabar in Cross River state.

The fourth Nigerian firm sanctioned by the global financial institution just within four months is Maxicare Company Nigeria Limited. It was disqualified on May 19.

By this resolution, and under the agreement for mutual enforcement of debarment decisions, the firms are also prohibited from doing businesses with the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development, and the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a specific period of time. The pact aligns with the resolution of the five international financial institutions signed on April 9,  2010.

Though the bank earlier sanctioned a few other local firms, those listed above were suspended this year.

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Asbeco Nigeria Limited was particularly blacklisted due to corruption-related offences.

In a Statement of Accusations and Evidence (SAE) signed by World Bank’s Chief Suspension and Debarment Officer (SDO) Jamieson Smith, at the Office of Suspension and Debarment, the accused firm allegedly paid N2m to the project engineer of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) to influence the award of an erosion control contract. Another N50, 000 was paid to the project cashier.

Asbeco also failed to respond to the allegation within the 90 days notice submitted to contest the corruption allegation.

NEWMAP is a $400 million erosion control project being executed across erosion-prone communities in the country.

Nigerian firms blacklisted by the World Bank. Source: World Bank

Cross Prohibition  

These suspensions imply that while each international financial institution has the liberty to determine the period of debarment, the World Bank, for instance, blacklisted Asbeco for five years.

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It is prohibited from securing any contract from its portfolio until 24 May 2026.

Sargittarius Nigeria Limited and the sister company were also suspended until 27 January 2023, while Maxicare’s suspension would elapse by 22 February 2026.

The AfDB, headed by Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), had earlier made public the sanction on Sargittarius Nigeria Limited and Sargittarius Henan Water Conservancy Engineering Limited. The suspension took effect from 28 July, and it would extend to 18 months.

The decision resulted from an investigation conducted by the bank’s Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption, which found both firms guilty.

They were blamed for fraudulent practices during tenders to construct a water infrastructure project in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. It was under the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project in Nigeria.

Despite the sanction, the affected firms would need to comply with the AfDB’s integrity standard to continue business with the institution.

“The debarment renders Sargittarius Nigeria Limited and its affiliates ineligible to participate in Bank Group-financed projects during the debarment period. Additionally, the debarment qualifies for cross-debarment by other multilateral development banks under the Agreement for Mutual Enforcement of Debarment Decisions, including the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank Group.”

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It stated that “at the expiry of the debarment period, Sargittarius Nigeria Limited will only be eligible to resume participation in AfDB Group-financed projects on the condition that it implements an integrity compliance program consistent with the Bank’s guidelines.”

According to the bank, the urban water supply and sanitation improvement project aims to improve access to safe water supply and sanitation services in the cities of Ibadan and Jalingo.

The Project was co-financed by the African Development Fund, an entity of the AfDB Group, and the Nigerian government.

Maxicare was barred for 36 months. The sanction took effect on 23 February, and it will last till 2023. The AfDB accused the firm of engaging in collusive and fraudulent practices during a procurement process to construct weigh stations and supply of equipment under the Transport Facilitation Program for the Bamenda-Mamfe-Abakaliki-Enugu Road Corridor connecting Cameroon and Nigeria.

“The debarment renders Maxicare Company (Nigeria) Limited and its affiliates ineligible to participate in Bank Group-financed projects during the debarment period.”

The road project is to boost trade activities and cooperation between Nigeria and Cameroun and, by extension, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and countries of the Economic Community of the Central African States.

 

Who are the CEOs of these firms?

According to public records, Sargittarius Nigeria limited is owned by Fela Amosu. It has two directors – Solomon Sofela Amosu and Olushola Amosu. It was registered as a private firm in January 1995, with registration number 262088.

Olushola Amosu has been an executive director of the firm for over 11 years, while the chairman has been in office for more than 23 years.

The Executive Director, Olushola Amosu, Sargittarius Nigeria Limited. Photo Credit: Social Media

The sister company registered in March 2019, with registration number 1569424, is jointly owned by Solomon Sofela Amosu and a Chinese, Jianqiang Wan. They are both directors and shareholders of Sargittarius Henan Water Conservancy Engineering Limited, but Solomon Sofela Amosu also acts as the company secretary.

The private company is limited by shares. Efforts to contact the firm’s MD failed. A voice message from the operator stated that the number found on the website does not exist.

The ICIR contacted Solange Kamuanga-Tossou, a Media Relations Assistant at the ADFB. An email was sent to him, but he was yet to respond as of filing this report.

An email was sent to Sargittarius to seek the firms’ reactions further, but no response came more than 48 hours after the email.

A source who pleaded to be anonymous because he was not authorised to speak later explained that the firm only filled two bid forms wrongly, specifically mentioning  632 pages. He, however, exonerated the organisation from any fraud, though it did not win the contract.

“Nobody was bribed, and there was no interaction to bribe anyone,” he stated. “People we deal with know our values and our integrity. That is why we have not really reacted.”

Maxicare Company Nigeria Limited was registered on 2 April 2001 with registration number 406985. It has three directors – Christopher Osuala, Christine Osuala, Christopher Osuala Jnr. And its status remains unknown. This is usually an indication that the firm has not submitted its annual reports to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

This reporter visited the two addresses associated with the firm but could not be found. They include the address found on the World Bank website – Millenium Builders Plaza, Suite 204, Block C, Plot 251 Herbert Macaulay Way, Central Business District (CBD), Abuja.

The complex is adjacent Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) building. Three private security officers in each block within the millennium builders complex could not identify the firm. Peter Usman, one of the officers, said he had never heard of Maxicare.

Other organisations within the building include the Institute of Human Virology, Zenith Bank, Polaris Bank, and other corporate organisations.

Maxicare address at Millenium Builders Plaza, Central Business District, Abuja. Photo Credit: Olugbenga Adanikin, The ICIR.

Meanwhile, the second address linked to Maxicare was 11, Pope John Paul Street, Maitama, also in Abuja. At the location, The ICIR discovered there were 11A and 11B. Three security operatives were manning the buildings.

One of them who attended to the reporter was Henen Stephen. He wore a grey colour uniform with the inscription Spy Police. They all denied knowing the firm.

Registered on 12 February 2001, Asbeco Nigeria Limited is owned by four directors. Egbe Asikong, Imoke Asikong, Rosemary Akabudike and Nelson Elemi.

Both Asbeco and Maxicare could not be reached for comments after several efforts made by The ICIR.

Olugbenga is an Investigative Reporter with The ICIR. Email address: [email protected] Twitter handle: @OluAdanikin

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

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