A magistrate court sitting in Kano has issued a criminal summon against WikkiTimes, a Bauchi-based investigative and data journalism platform, over an investigative story exposing some irregularities in Kano State.
WikkiTimes had published an investigation about six construction companies involved in the building of 20 units of one block- of 2-classrooms with furniture, toilets, and offices in selected locations across the three senatorial districts in Kano. The companies include: S.A.T Engineering Service LTD, M. Sulum Nigerian LTD, Emacs Engineering Consultant, Pyramid Investment, MGK Global Service LTD and Haitel Nig LTD.
However, S.A.T Engineering Service LTD, M. Sulum Nigerian LTD and their owner, Alhaji Surajo Marshal including one other company through their counsel, Habiba Abdullahi Umar Esq filed a criminal lawsuit before Magistrate Court 18, Justice AB Wali Complex, Gyadi-Gyadi, Kano State.
The presiding Chief Magistrate, Auwal Yusuf Sulaiman will read the criminal charges to WikkiTimes and its reporter, Elijah Ajoki (who authored the report) on January 9, 2023.
The applicants through their counsel, described the publication as “untrue, malicious, unfounded and wicked.” They accused the defendants of cyber defamation of character “pursuant to the provision of cyber crime (Prohibition and Prevention Etc) Act, 2015 and section 393 of the Penal Code law of Kano State (Cap 89 Laws of the Northern Nigeria.)
The investigation authored by Elijah Akoji, revealed how the companies were allegedly used by the Nomadic Education Commission in Kano State to divert N290million, with two of it belonging to the same individuals.
In 2018, the National Commission for Nomadic Education, under the Ministry of Education budgeted over N500 million for the Construction of 20 Nos of one Block- of 2-Classrooms with Furniture, Toilets, and Offices in Selected Locations across the three senatorial districts in Kano.
Four years down the line and after payment of about N300m to companies selected to undertake the project, the benefiting communities are yet to see any of the classrooms set to be constructed.
Cumulatively, the six companies were paid about N290m in the first tranche, for the construction of the classrooms. However, almost 3 years after collecting the various amounts, WikkiTimes can authoritatively report that the supposed benefitting communities are yet to see anything on the ground.
Communities to benefit from the classroom project include Bauni, Karshi and Kanwa in Karaye Local Government Area, Fulatan, Zagon Gulya and Jiyayia in Ajingi as well as Garo, and Ungwan Wusama, in Ajingi and Kabo local government areas.
Others are; Falgore, Jangefe and Sabon Kwara in Doguwa Local Government Area as well as Tsaure, Mamargu and Sanakur in Bichi Local Government Area.
The rest are Dandago and Galandachi in Gwale Local Government Area, as well as Kafin Argur and Burji in Madobi LGA.
Data from the Commission’s website titled, Nomadic Schools and Their Location revealed that the last set of schools built by the agency in Kano State was in 2016. These are the schools built in Kakinda in Rano, Komawa and Y/Dalla Fulani in Warawa, Tukwane, K/Yardan Fulani, Dalawa, Kan Iyaka, T/Kano, L/Gada in Takai, Dogari in Rogo and Digawa in Gabasawa as well as Chezawai in Bebeji local government areas.
A visit to these communities showed that not a single classroom block was constructed by these companies within the period under review.
A breakdown of the amount expended on the contract according to records from Open Treasury showed that S.A.T Engineering Service LTD received N52,870,275.02 in 2018, M. Sulum Nigerian LTD N40,070,275.02, Emacs Engineering Consultant received N69,421,428.57, Pyramid Investment was paid N40,047,619.04, while MGK Global Service LTD received N60,021,428.57, and Haitel Nig LTD N25,380,952.38 all as the first tranche of payment.
Records from NG-Checks and the Corporate Affairs Commission show that M. Sulum Nigeria LTD and Haitel Nig LTD, belong to Alhaji Surajo Marshal, as both companies have the same directors.
The directors of M. Sulum Nigeria LTD and Haitel Nig LTD include; Alhaji Surajo Marshal, Ibrahim Surajo Marshal, Sani Surajo Marshal, Sadiq Surajo Marshal, Yusuf Surajo Marshal, Khairat Surajo Marshal, Fatima Surajo Marshal, Zainab Surajo Marshal, and Surajo Surajo Marshal, all as directors of the two companies.
According to their registration details on the CAC, M. Sulum Nigeria LTD, Haitel Nig LTD, and S.A.T Engineering Service LTD operates from the same location, Hotoro in Kano, meters away from each other.
While M. Sulum Nigeria Ltd claims it operates from No: 9 Eastern By-Pass Road Hotoro Kano, Haitel Nig LTD is located at No, 214 Mohammadu Vice Adamu road Hotoro GRA.
In the same vein, S.A.T Engineering Service LTD also operates from No. 30 Sabara Avenue Hotoro GRA Kano.
A visit to the addresses the companies claim revealed that the entire locations are residential, even long before the companies were established.
No contact information of these companies was available online; as there was no website, emails, phone numbers or social media address of any of the companies. The reporter could not have any means of contacting them; this is even more compounded since the addresses they claim to operate from, remain fictitious.
For Haitel Nig Limited, the firm was registered as a Hotel and Hospitality Company — a clear evidence that the company is unqualified to be awarded the contract.
WikkiTimes could not find any area of specialisation for M. Sulum Nigeria LTD as its profile on the CAC portal does not specify any business type.
These two companies, M. Sulum Nigeria LTD and Haitel Nig LTD, received a total of N60,451,227.04 million naira from the commission as the first tranches of payment on the same date.
When this medium visited the location of the 4th company MGK Global Service LTD, which claimed to be operating from Suit 3 ground floor 12/133 as provided to the CAC, it was discovered that the address is occupied by Standard Construction Limited.
According to Saidu Jakada, a staff of Standard Construction Limited, “MGK is just the initials of Muhammad Garba Kauga, who used to be my colleague and staff of Standard Construction Limited, he left the company and established his own MGK Global Service LTD, I don’t know anything about him or where he stays.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include details of the lawsuit