Claims that the Nigerian government under the stewardship of Muhammadu Buhari achieved great success in the fight against corruption are in question following the discovery that public officials and civil servants have been engaged in questionable dealings when awarding and executing contracts.
A study by nonprofit organization Media Advocacy West Africa Foundation (MAWA-Foundation) which works to promote public accountability, good governance, democracy, human rights, peace, and security found that officials in President Buhari’s office were setting aside rules to engage in corrupt dealings in the award and execution of contracts.
Upon investigation, MAWA says it discovered how some ministries, parastatals, and agencies of Buhari’s government circumvent and breach rules under the procurement and fiscal responsibility Act of 2007 to award contracts whose values have been inflated.
Timescape Magazine understands that MAWA, a team of young persons who felt pained over public accountability discourse deficit in Nigeria and the other West African States, made use of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to unravel systemic corruption in government.
One of its investigations discovered how the Federal Ministry of Environment breached procurement rules to award health capacity training to an engineering company. The Ministry in its Covid-19 procurement was said to have awarded a sum of N53, 910,000 (USD129,485) for a health training job to Messrs. Joki Engineering and Consultants Ltd. This particular job was allegedly completed in seven days.
However, officials could not provide an answer to what kind of procurement process was followed by the Ministry of Environment that led to the selection of an engineering company to conduct health training.
At the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), it was discovered that an unqualified company called Messrs. Chesa Nigeria Limited was awarded a contract worth N1.044 billion (USD2.5 million), got paid, and then abandoned the project.
MAWA Foundation described the NDDC’s action as a clear example of corruption that has helped undermine development in the oil-producing Niger-Delta region.
In the case of the abandoned project, MAWA Foundation revealed that NDDC on May 31, 2012, awarded the construction of Egodo – Ogbeingbene road to Messrs. Chesa Nigeria Limited.
When MAWA visited the project site it was confirmed the project had been abandoned. It also revealed that contractors had since left the site with obsolete equipment.
“When we saw contractors move equipment to the site, we were very happy that the long-suffering we had experienced on the road will be addressed following the road construction, but to our surprise, shortly after the project commenced, the contractors abandoned it and left,” says Saikibo Daniel, a resident in the Niger Delta community.
Some group of farmers led by one Mr. Osekene told MAWA investigators that the abandoned road is very fundamental to the economic viability of the area and have since appealed to authorities at NDDC to order contractors back to the site.
A check on the status of Messrs. Chesa Nigeria Limited from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) showed that the company was not registered to carry out road constructions.
MAWA Foundation alleges that the case of Messrs. Chesa Nigeria Limited is not a one-off mistake by NDDC.
“Go and study Nigerian procurement laws, you will find that in virtually all NDDC contract awards, they either select a ghost or a fake company that is a breach of Nigerian laws,” reads a part of the report by MAWA.
The NDDC also awarded a contract for the construction of drainage channels to Dewfirstplus Limited, a website design, and software development company.
Under the deal, the NDDC on May 31, 2012, awarded N 150, 000,000 (USD360,282) for the construction of drainage channels in Cross River state. Dewfirstplus Limited, the company that was awarded the contract was paid N135, 046,974.75 (USD324,367) representing 90 percent of the contract fee, leaving the rest unaccounted for.
During the process of auditing NDDC in 2008-2018, the Auditor General’s Office also discovered that N30,537,219.75 (USD73,346.7) was missing from the Dewfirstplus Limited contract.
A visit to the project site shows that Dewafirstplus Limited-constructed drainage channels were poorly done. There is a stench coming out from the uncovered drainage constituting a health hazard to the residents.
The NDDC’s action was faulted by a procurement expert, Michael Osanya.
A disappointed Osanya said in a situation where due process was followed in the procurement process, it is impossible to award such a contract to a website design company, and worse still, the NDDC ignored competency and professionalism and gave such a contract to an unqualified company.
In a related development, the NDDC breached procurement laws, as it awarded a multi-million road construction to an unqualified company that deals in poultry and has nothing to do with civil engineering or other forms of construction.
The NDDC awarded the construction of Nonwa-Bunutai-Afam Ukwu –Afam Road to Jocarl Investment Limited. Just like in the case of Dewafirstplus, Jocarl Investment Limited was paid a big percentage of the contract sum, but the Auditor General’s Office discovered some money was missing.
Documents obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) by MAWA Foundation in a response to the Freedom of Information Act request also show that Jocarl Investment Limited deals in poultry, breeding chicks for people that are rearing fowls and selling eggs and not civil engineering and construction.
Similarly, questionable procurements were discovered at the Ministry of Women Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, National Human Rights Commission, and the Ministry of Youth Affairs
Dealings were discovered at the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, which claimed the spending of N2 billion (USD4.8 million) on youth training as part of the Covid-19 intervention programme.
The Ministry of Youth claimed to have trained 1,600 youth to become digital professionals but a senior official at the said ministry told investigators that there was no such training of that magnitude.
“What is going on in the Ministry of Youth is huge corruption, and the government is turning blind eyes pretending they are not aware. Challenge the ministry and the minister to make an available list of the trained youth. I can assure you there is none,” the official said.
“You cannot run a country this way and expect it not to collapse, people just connive and take away huge sums of money and nobody is asking questions, this is a factor that has kept Nigeria on her knees,” another official said.
Some Nigerians who spoke with Timescape Magazine on the level of corruption going on under the watch of Buhari’s government, especially in the federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), said they were not surprised because for a long time it has been established that the civil service is the den of corruption in Nigeria.
“I am not surprised with the revelations coming out from the report of MAWA Foundation. I have been following the organization on the internet and I could see that they are doing a good job to bring out this ungodly character in our civil servants and public officeholders. What baffled me is why all the anti-graft agencies of the government have failed to beam their searchlight to bring these people to justice. I think if reports like this are coming out, something will be done sooner than later,” said Sunday Akintoye, a Lagos-based journalist.
As of January 2022, when the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranking was released by Transparency International (TI), Nigeria was ranked 154 out of 180 countries surveyed. Nigeria was placed as the second most corrupt country in West Africa. This Segun Oke, a public affairs analyst based in Lagos, said it was not a good record for Buhari who has been telling the world that he was fighting corruption to a standstill in the country.
“The ranking of Transparency International (IT) and what is happening within the government are a bad omen for the present administration. Unfortunately for us as a people, corruption is a big cankerworm that is driving us backward. It has become a way of life for us. What MAWA has been reporting over time is just a tip of the iceberg of what is actually happening within the government,” says Oke.