HomeCover StoriesINVESTIGATION: Inside Sokoto Rima River Basin procurement scandal, how agency violates law,...

INVESTIGATION: Inside Sokoto Rima River Basin procurement scandal, how agency violates law, awards multi-million Naira unexecuted contract

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An investigation by PlatinumPost has uncovered how Nigerian government Agencies have continuously violated procurement rules in awarding contracts, actions that have helped undermine development and breed corruption.

This has continued to be the practice despite the existence of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 criminalises the award of contracts in violation of procurement rules.

Maradun community in Maradun LGA was selected as the project site for the multi-million naira mechanized farming, a modern kind of farming practice that ordinarily will cost millions of naira to execute, this is aimed at bringing succour to the people of Zamfara State.

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In 2021, N70 million was earmarked for the construction of a mechanized farm in the Maradun Community, Maradun LGA in Zamfara State by Sokoto Rima, one of the five River Basin Authority in Nigeria under the Ministry of Water Resources.

When this newspaper got to Maradun the host community of the multi-million naira project, which happened to be one of the communities in Zamfara state constantly troubled by bandit attacks that have
chased residents out for fear of being attacked, just a few, mostly men are still living in the community.

Bala Tijjani was identified as the fixer who served as the coordinator appointed by the agency to coordinate and assist the contractor through the execution of the project. He took this reporter to the proposed project site and narrate how he has not heard from the agency or the contractor ever since they left.

Contractor Inspecting The Water Flow Areawhen They Last Visited

Contractor Inspecting The Water Flow Area when They Last Visited

“If the project has been executed, you will see heavy-duty machines being used and people working, all
you can see here is an empty land which looks clear, not because they came to clear it, no, the weather
made it so.

“When the contractor came, they gave us the assurance, aside from being their fixer, I am supposed to be one of the beneficiaries of the project, this could have helped the people of this community and perhaps help restore hope to the people having lost so many properties to banditry attacks, there has been silence, and its over a year now since they came, I pray they come again to execute the project,” Tijjani lamented.

Ahmed Abdullahi the ward head in the Maradun community, expressed his disbelief, he thought that
the proposed project will help bring development to the community and also create employment for the youths.

“The announcement of the project in our community brought some sense of relief to us, we are predominantly farmers, feeding from hand to mouth, and immediately we head about the project I began
to believe we can actually make money when we use machines farming systems to farm and also raise our
birds and animals in a conducive location, little did I know it was the usual government propaganda.

“I remember seeing the contractor just once, and ever since then, no one either the contractor or the
agency has shown up to speak to us about the delay, in fact, we gave them land for free, and the land is
still there, I am sure they have taken you there to see how big it is,” Abdullahi decried.

Tracking Payment
Suspicious record of payment obtained by this newspaper from Govspend a procurement website that captures all payments made by the MDAs to contractors for the execution of projects reveal that payments in two tranches to the same company Cimulla Nigeria Limited were made.

One such payment was made on the 1st day of January 2022, this day which is supposed to be a public holiday, N29,948,036.79 was made with payment code 0252046001, and payment number 1000898683-21.

Another payment of N11,315,972.09 with payment code 0252046001 and payment number 1000985405-33 was made to the same contractor Cimulla Nigeria Limited on the 29th of September 2022. Despite this evidence of payment, no trace of the project on the ground to show.

Face Behind Cimulla Nigeria Limited

As it appears that no company operates in isolation, this reporter tracked the faces behind Cimulla Nigeria Limited, and records obtained from NGchecks revealed that the company was incorporated on 23rd August 2000 and belongs to Jamillu Abdullahi, the senior programs officer of the Bureau of Public Procurement.

As the senior program officer of the parastatals charged with the responsibility of ensuring adherence to the procurement procedure in the award of contracts, Jamilu himself flouted the law and was awarded a contract against the procurement laid down guidelines.

While there was no evidence of bidding or call for interest as stipulated by the law, Cimulla Nigeria Limited was singled out and was awarded the multi-million Naira Songai Mechanized Farm Project.

When contacted to speak on the profile of the project and its current status, Jamillu declined and directed the reporter to contact the agency.

“You shouldn’t  have reached out to me, our duty is just to execute the project as a company, kindly contact the agency that awarded the contract to us to provide you with the information you need, as to my profile, I am a Nigerian, by right I should also have a company that can receive a contract, no law prohibits that, Jamilu said, but refused to speak on the procurement law flouted in the award of the contract to his company.

Position of The Law

For instance, section 58 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 makes it an offence with offenders liable to five or 10 years imprisonment for awarding contracts without due process and in line with the law. While section 38 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 makes it an offence for contracts that are not awarded in compliance with procurement rules.

These laws exist to help regulate contract awards in Nigeria to ensure there is no room for corruption, transparency, and accountability upheld in the entire process. This investigation by PlatinumPost has uncovered how Sokoto Rima in connivance with an insider from BPP is engaged in an apparent abuse of the laws and is awarding contracts in total disregard and breach of the Act.

Community Members Not Suprised

Danjuma Usman could not hold his calm, he described government projects as an intentional
corrupt practice, where people get away with project funds and nothing happens to them.

“I am not surprised that you have come to ask us about the project, if we have had the media a long time ago, we would have called on the government to hold the agency responsible for playing with our intelligence, we have long suffered from the hand of bandits, we relocated our wives and children to another location so that we can farm and feed them, the least the government could do is play a smart one on us and deny us access to a mechanised farming system already proposed where we can get foodstuff at affordable prices and also benefit from the machines to be used on our farms,” Usman decry.

46 years Dauda Ibrahim, narrates how most projects awarded to their community have eluded them, stripping them of the opportunity to enjoy the much-talked-about dividend of democracy.

“First it was a multi-million naira borehole project, they came did their survey, and left, they did not return, and again came a farm project, no one is surprised that the agency and contractor did not return to the project site after taking pictures and measurements, I know one day God will remember us,” Ibrahim said.

Dauda observed that “one of the challenges facing the local farmers here is assessing mechanized farming equipment. An initiative like this would have been another avenue for the farmers to develop their farming practice.

Zamfara Ministry of Agriculture Not Aware
When this reporter visited the Zamfara Ministry of Agriculture to confirm their knowledge of the
project and their input in ensuring takeover and maintenance when completed, the director of
procurement Suleman Muhammed claimed the ministry is not aware of any of such projects.

Denying knowledge of the contract, he said “Incidentally, as the Director of Procurement, I am
not aware of any job or project ongoing in the Maradun community awarded by Sokoto Rima.”
Adding that “what we have that have completed in Maradun are some hand pump boreholes.

Agency Respond, Blame Insecurity
Many would wonder why a project which has received payment in two tranches has no trace of the project on the ground as evidence. The Multi-Million naira project has received about N40 Million which is about 70% of the contract sum.

Ibrahim Badamasi, the Director of Procurement Sokoto Rima while narrating the delay in the
execution of the project sighted insecurity as their obstacle to not completing the project.

When told that there is no trace that the project has commenced and that there is no trace of any equipment on the project site as an indication of an ongoing project, Badamasi denied the claim.

“We commenced work on the project site in January 2022, and we are 80% into the project when the issue of kidnapping increased, we are happy that severally when those bad guys stroke to kidnap our staff, there was a reprisal attack by the military, so we have been slow since the military was evacuated from their location, we have been worried about that and we can’t continue work until something is done,” Badamasi claimed.

Bala Tijjani, Project Fixer Photo Credit Elijah Akoji

Bala Tijjani, Project Fixer Photo Credit Elijah Akoji

This Investigative Report is initially carried out by Platinum Post.

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