Only one of the 4 companies supplied the materials, which have not been distributed yet, 8 months after delivery. The Lawmaker Bello Umar Kaoje, threatened to assault WikkiTimes’ reporter for “poking into his business”.
Between the months of September and December 2021, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals made payments in full to four different companies for the execution of the same project-the supply of 39 units of tricycles each.
The four companies each received N43,590,592.50 totalling N174,362,370.00 for the supply of 39 tricycles to Bagudo/Suru local government in Kebbi state.
The tricycles meant for economic empowerment were to be distributed to people as part of the constituency projects of Bello Ka’oje, the lawmaker representing Bagudo/Suru at the National Assembly.
Based on the total amount and reason for the release of the said money, the four companies would have delivered a total of 156 tricycles to the two LGAs.
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However, an investigation by WikkiTimes revealed that only one of the companies supplied the motorcycles and have never been distributed to the supposed beneficiaries in the constituency.
WikkiTimes also discovered the last distribution of 40 tricycles by the lawmaker was in May 2021. 3 months before the 4 contracts were awarded.
The four companies in question are Rafin Zuma Engineering Limited, Oil Drops Limited, Gridarch Limited and Consumer Heritage ventures.
Investigation revealed that three of these companies are either inactive or untraceable, thus heightening suspicion of fraud and embezzlement of public funds by the implementing government agency.
Tricycles project awarded to inactive, unregistered companies
Available records published by Govspend.ng showed that all four companies were paid between September and December for the supply of 39 tricycles each to Bagudo/Suru local government, under the supervision of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
On September 18, the sum of N43,590,592.50 was paid to Oil Drops Limited and Rafin Zuma Engineering Limited. On November 24, the same amount was paid to Gridarch Limited and on December 19, Consumer Heritage Ventures received the same amount of money for the same purpose.
A check with the Corporate Affairs Commission-the government agency tasked with the responsibility of registering companies in Nigeria showed that only one of the four companies has an active registration status.
Two of the companies are inactive and one is unregistered.
Further investigations indicated that Oil Drops Limited and Rafin Zuma Engineering Limited, the first two companies that issued payments are owned by the same persons.
Documents obtained by WikkiTimes from the website of the CAC showed the directors of Rafin Zuma Engineering Limited as Mathew Ele Rose and Mathew David. For Oil Drops Limited, the directors are the same Mathew Ele Rose, Mathew David and one Matthew Augustine Folarin.
In addition, not one of the four companies is located at its said address indicated on their portfolios. Visits by a WikkiTimes’ reporter to the addresses cited on the companies showed no traces of them in any of the locations.
At Kebbi House, Central Business District in Abuja for instance, there are no traces of Rafin Zuma Engineering LTD or Oil Drops NIG LTD, although both companies claimed their offices are situated at this location. The structure located in this address is occupied by Zenith Bank.
Also, Consumer Heritage Venture is supposedly located at suite 202, Dabo Mall in Garki but when the reporter visited the said location, a law firm occupied the suite.
The reporter observed that the office had been locked and unused for a while.
Contract contravenes procurement rules
While a lot of questions surrounding the execution of the project remain unanswered, the award of the contract up initio contravened the Public Procurement Act 2007. The Act dictates that “a bidder may have its bid or tender excluded if the bidder is in arrears regarding payment of due taxes, charges, pensions or social insurance contributions unless such bidders have obtained a lawful permit in respect to allowance, the difference of such outstanding payments or payment thereof in instalments”
As per the rules of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), inactive companies are legal entities that did not comply with Sections 417 – 424 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 in filing their annual returns with the Commission.
Section 417 of the Act dictates that every company must make and deliver their annual returns to the Commission every year.
Hence, an inactive company is described as one that has not been carrying out any business or has not made any significant accounting transaction or has not paid its annual dues in the last two fiscal years.
However, despite failing to fulfil the provisions of these sections, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs still went its way to award the contract to these companies.
Instead of poor people, politicians, party members, supporters were the beneficiaries of Kaoje’s constituency project
Meanwhile, the distribution of the tricycles in May 2021 as part of Kaoje’s constituency projects was also marred by irregularities.
Instead of the poor people, WikkiTimes learnt that the lawmaker used the project to compensate his personal political and party stalwarts.
Beneficiaries of the tricycles were, therefore, political office holders and APC party members.
The current LGA chairman, Aliyu Sambo-Zagga and former LGA chairman, Muhammad Danhakimi and council party legal adviser identified as Mallam Aliyu are three of the major beneficiaries.
When contacted, the Local Government Social Welfare Director, Bello Umar, affirmed that the tricycles were distributed to members of the All Progressive Congress APC to garner support for Kaoje’s political ambition.
“The tricycles were distributed to political office holders and party members and Kaoje’s supporters because of politics. The local government chairman, former local government chairman and party legal adviser were part of the primary beneficiaries.
Lawmaker threatened to assault reporter
When contacted by WikkiTimes correspondent the lawmaker chose to respond to our inquiries at his residence in Birnin Kebbi.
Upon arrival, however, the reporter was welcomed by Bello Kaoje with threats of physical assault.
The furious Kaoje indicated that his reason for scheduling the meeting at his country home was to have security officials flog the reporter for “poking into his business”.
Pointing at the policemen sitting by the gate of his apartment, the lawmaker said “If not because you are a woman, I would have asked my boys to lash you seriously today. This is even why I invited you here”.
“I have had serious complaints about people calling to ask for information that has nothing to do with them. The reason I asked you to come here is because I want to order my boys to beat the hell out of you. I don’t understand why a journalist is asking about my constituency project,” he said.
Kaoje said the beneficiaries of the projects were selected across the 22 wards in the council but conceded that some of his workers and close associates were beneficiaries of this project.
“This is my news guy, he is one of the beneficiaries of my keke Napep distribution. My stakeholders are also beneficiaries of the tricycles. Many of the people present here are beneficiaries. They can all testify.” he said.
“I can’t even quantify the number of equipment I have distributed since I began representing the constituency. I was unopposed in the last elections because everyone in my constituency supports me.”
“The project was an intervention project that I had requested. It was granted by the ministry of humanitarian affairs.” “Two companies were cancelled out and the project was awarded to the companies that brought those items to me but I can’t remember the names of the companies.”
Although this investigation showed that all four companies were paid to carry out these projects, the Lawmaker said only two companies were paid to supply the tricycles as the contracts awarded to the other companies were cancelled.
As against the lawmaker’s claims, WikkiTimes obtained evidence from authoritative sources that all 4 companies were paid the same amount of money for the same project.
The lawmaker said each company supplied 39 tricycles but claimed to have distributed over 140 tricycles in his constituency. Kaoje claimed responsibility for more than 80 percent of tricycles found in the state capital.
This publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.