News, Politics

Bauchi Governor In Big Trouble

Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State is in hot soup. He is now swimming in a N3.6 billion contract scandal.

He awarded the contract to a company in which he is a director in clear contravention of Code of Conduct and Public Procurement laws.

The contract was for the supply of a whopping 105 “officials vehicles” for the use of the governor and other government officials.

Officials familiar with the issue said the contract awarded to Adda Nigeria Limited, a company in which Mr Mohammed retains a 20 per cent stake, was one of his first actions as governor.

Prior to his election as governor, Mr. Mohammed was standing trial for alleged corruption during his stay as the FCT minister.

The anti-corruption agency, EFCC, first filed six-count charges against Mr. Mohammed on October 10, 2017. He was accused of abuse of office and land racketeering. He denied the charges.

In April 2019, weeks after his election as governor, the agency slammed amended charges on Mr. Mohammed before the FCT High Court, accusing him, among other things, of receiving a house valued at N550 million in gratification.

He was also accused of failing to disclose his ownership of some property.

With his inauguration as governor on May 29, the EFCC halted Mr. Mohammed’s prosecution, in deference to the constitutional immunity from prosecution enjoyed by holders of such positions in Nigeria.

The controversial contract is among government contracts awarded by the governor prior to constituting the state executive council.

Other required procedures were also ignored as the paperwork was only hastened months after the actual contract award.

Contracts of this nature are expected to follow standard bidding processes through open competitive bidding, according to the Bauchi State Public Procurement, Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Agency law.

In addition to breaching federal code of conduct law, the award of the contract also conflicted with Section 25 of Bauchi procurement law which forbids officials involved in the procurement process from partaking in contract bidding or cooperation with bidders.

The Code of Conduct law, in sections 5 and 6, also bars public officers from putting themselves in positions of conflict of interest and disallows them from partaking in any business other than farming.

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The governor, according to documents seen by us, awarded the contract in anticipation of the requisite state executive council approval.

It was not clear how the vehicles procurement process started but the earliest document on the procurement seen by us is a memo from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development dated July 9, 2019.

The memo, addressed to the governor through the Secretary to the State Government, provided purported quotations from three companies for the supply of 105 vehicles.

The memo signed by Muhammed Sabo Abdullahi on behalf of the permanent secretary of the Finance and Economic Development Ministry asked the governor to approve the purchase from Adda Nigeria Limited, which cost he put at N3,602,000,000.

Two other companies, according to the correspondence, quoted N3,740,000,000 and N3,911,000,000 respectively.

To perfect the process, on September 9, 2019, the governor inked his approval on the memo, directing the Secretary to the State Government to table the memo before the executive council “for ratification.”

The executive council was not in place as at that time as the council was only inaugurated a day later, on September 10.

The documents were later tabled before the first state’s executive council meeting on September 11, 2019, for what was a mere rubber-stamp exercise.

Insiders, however, said the then commissioner of finance in the state, Nura Soro, had raised questions on aspects of the contracts leading to stepping down of the issue at the maiden council meeting.

It is, however, unclear how the issue later scaled through, leading to the issuance of a council extract dated September 17, 2019, to regularise the papers.

The controversy surrounding the contract award was said to be part of the reasons leading to Mr. Soro’s resignation from his post in mid-October.

Mr Soro has declined a request for his comments on this story.

Adda Nigeria Limited, first incorporated in late 1996 with a share capital of 500,000, has four directors, according to records obtained by this newspaper on January 8, 2020.

Abdullahi Salihu Bawa holds 200,000 share capital while Mr Mohammed and two other persons, who appear to be Mr. Bawa’s children, have 100,000 share capital each.

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Mr. Mohammed used 227 Gombe Road as his address in the registration forms.

Checks in Bauchi show that the house belongs to Sarkin Duguri, Mr. Mohammed’s father. Relatives of the governor are said to be presently occupying the property, while his brother, the present holder of the Sarkin Duguri title uses the residence when he comes to Bauchi for Sallah festivities.

Little is known about Mr Bawa and the company as online searches and findings in Bauchi could not provide any useful clue as the company has no website or any social media account.

Records obtained by this newspaper from the Corporate Affairs Commission show that Mr Mohammed was in 2006 reappointed as a director of the company.

The company documents, however, did not show at what point the governor exited the directorship before his re-entry in 2006.

However, company filings between 2006 and 2018 filed with the CAC show that Mr Mohammed remained a director of the company, including the period he was FCT minister – another violation of the law.

Curiously, around the time of the contract award, Adda Nigeria Limited filed a notification to the CAC on August 1, 2019, appointing a close friend of Mr Mohammed, Abdullahi Yari, as its company secretary.

The appointment relied on a purported resolution of the board meeting of the company held on May 1, 2019.

Another issue with the N3.6 billion contract is the inflation of the amount involved and the number of vehicles.

While the 2019 Bauchi State budget provides for N1 billion for motor vehicles purchases to be handled by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the government increased the money by N2.6 billion.

We could not ascertain if there was an amendment on the 2019 Appropriation Act to accommodate the change.

Another curious aspect is the number of vehicles, which had to be jerked up totally with the revised cost.

The 105 vehicles for an incoming government raise concerns on the propriety and integrity of the action.

Aside the governor and his deputy, the state has 31 state assembly members and 20 commissioners, giving a total of far lower officials than the 105 provided for.

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The cost of the vehicles was also varied from the market price by as much as N11 million for some of the vehicles.

An official document seen by our reporter shows that a Toyota Hilux van included among the vehicles to be bought has its market price stated as N15 million with a contract price of N19 million.

The governor’s Land Cruiser V8 with market price of N38 million was slated to be bought at N49 million. It was the same price for the deputy governor’s Prado Jeep V8.

Officials at the office of the state’s Secretary to the State Government said not all the vehicles were delivered, five months since the award of the contract.

We learnt that members of the state’s House of Assembly have all taken possession of their Prado Jeep V6 series, despite generating uproar at the state.

Overall, the vehicles are being delivered piecemeal with some commissioners yet to be allocated their new Toyota Camry cars.

A spokesperson for the Bauchi governor, Mukhtar Gidado, confirmed the award of the contract to us.

Two days after taking our reporter’s enquiry, Mr. Gidado, who is also a beneficiary of the vehicles bazaar, called to confirm the contract.

“Yes, it is true. The contract was awarded at the cost you mentioned,” he said.

He, however, refuted the allegation of shabby delivery, saying, “As I am talking to you (Friday), the last batch of eight vehicles are on their way to Bauchi from Lagos.”

Mr. Gidado also denied that Mr. Mohammed is part owner of the company, challenging the reporter to do “proper investigation” at the CAC.

But five days after the evidence of Mr. Mohammed’s ownership in the company was sent to Mr. Gidado via Whatsapp, the governor’s spokesperson who claimed he had not seen the evidence, insisted that Mr. Mohammed was not a director in the company.

– Source: PremiumTimes