In perpetrating the “AmaechiGate”, the minister spurns National Security Adviser’s invite for meeting over security and economic implications of project
Per Second News
The lid of a multi-billion dollar contract by a serving minister and member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s political kitchen cabinet has been pried off with the minister hoodwinking him to secure anticipatory approval outside the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the project to further jeopardize and compromise national security.
The fraud being perpetrated is the second to be busted this year and in the centre of the contract scandal is the Minister of Transportation and former Rivers Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
Using the same modus operandi in getting President Buhari’s approval to suspend and later sack the Managing Director of/CEO of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman in May 2021, Amaechi also got another “midnight approval’’ on August 19, 2021 on the procurement of International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) scheme in Nigeria thereby circumventing FEC which should approve a contract of such magnitude.
The minister, in the four-paragraph letter to the President dated August 19, 2021, stated:“I am requesting that Mr President reconfirms his earlier approval and direct that the ministry engage Messers Medtech Scientific Ltd in partnership with Rozi International Nig. Ltd to be presented to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to avoid delay in the implementation of ICTN.’’
ICTN, an electronic cargo verification system, monitors the shipment of seaborne cargo and enables a real-time generation of vital data on ship and cargo traffic in and out of the country.
Persecondnews.com recalls that the Federal Government had in 2010 and 2015 in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration recorded a failed attempt to implement the CTN because of incompetency and shady dealings of some firms involved in the project.
A whistle-blowing initiative on the implementation of ICTN by the Civil Society Against Business Malpractices (CSABM) – maritime practitioners and watchers in a 14-page petition dated September 9, 2021 and signed by Aliyu Suleiman (Chairman) and James Zaki (Secretary), it alerted of what it called an “unfolding ill-designed plan by persons and institutions to foist a fake ICTN on the country’’, pointing out that Pres. Buhari was “misguided to granting an anticipatory approval for a direct appointment of a puppet company.’’
It said the approval was meant to “intimidate the system, quench any form of assessment of these companies and possibly bypass known procurement laws.’’
The maritime practitioners raised issues of terrorism and proliferation of small arms in selecting or evaluating prospective service provider of the CTN project.
“In view of the present security challenges posed by proliferation of small arms and global trend of terrorism, the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) ought to be fully involved in evaluating prospective service provider of CTN project to ensure that they are competent and issue security clearance where necessary as vital national security information is involved and transmitted through the CTN scheme.
“Thus would forestall having to cancel this contract down the line when it would have become obvious that these companies lack the capacity to deliver the required services which will lead Nigeria down the familiar path of a lengthy arbitration process followed by a lengthy court process and most likely another judgment debt foisted on the country by these few individuals.
“The core of this petition is to invite your organization’s attention to information available to us that a `third effort’ to implement this critical and desirable CTN is being done through the back door.
“NSC (through the minister) has perfected plans to appoint one Messers Medtech Scientific Ltd in partnership with Rozi International Nigeria Ltd as new agent/technical partner to implement the CTN scheme in Nigeria.
“A zoom into the companies shows that they have absolutely NO experience and knowledge of the service …Medtech is a medical equipment supply company registered and operating here in Nigeria.
The company has neither implemented CTN for any country nor possesses any known platform to do so.
“Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) on October 22, 2020 directed the ministry to adopt international competitive bidding for engagement of a new firm to implement CTN. On May 5, 2021, the ministry (minister) requested that Mr. President approve that NSC conduct ICB.
“On 17th of May 2021, Mr. President granted approval for ICB to be completed in 4 months. The ministry waited for the four months period to elapse and went ahead to relay on 3rd August 2020 approval of Mr. President for selecting tendering that has been superseded, thereby overriding the current presidential approval and BPP directive for ICB.
“As if that was not enough, the ministry on 19th of August 2021 went back to Mr. President and obtained the present anticipatory approval for direct procurement to enable the ministry ask for due process `no objection’ from BPP and certificate of compliance from ICRC for the appointment of Messers Medtech Scientific Ltd as technical partner to Rozi International Nigeria Ltd, a local party, to provide this service.
“The manner in which this last anticipatory approval was gotten from Mr President show inherent impunity, disregard to authority, abuse of legal/procurement processes and absolute lack of integrity on the persons entrusted with authority without any care that this amounted to misleading the President,’’Persecondnews quotes from the petitioners’ statement.
“The essence of all these desperate moves is to award this contract to a puppet company that will merely issue duplicate cargo information (copy of ship manifest) that will now be called CTN to importers. This amount to exploitation and fraud as no real service of CTN is provided.
“It does not matter to these persons (Amaechi and others) and their cohorts that the action will compromise the safety, security and economic gains in maritime trade.’’
While indicting the minister and others in the fraud chain, the civil society organization said a few individuals just sat down and hurriedly put some documents together with which they deceived Mr. President into giving an anticipatory approval to a company unknown in the subject services.
Worried by the security and economic concerns about the project, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Chief of Staff to the President wrote Amaechi separate letters.
Persecondnews.com gathered that twice on April 21, 2021 and July 16, 2021, the NSA, retired Major-General Babagana Monguno invited the minister to a meeting with the relevant agencies under his ministry to discuss the matter and facilitate appropriate decision-making which the minister rejected with disdain.
The July 16 letter personally signed by NSA entitled, “Re: Non-implementation of Cargo Tracking Note by NPA for import and export activities with worsening security situation in Nigeria’’, notes the failure of Amaechi to attend the April 21 meeting and also “kindly requested to oblige an urgent discussion to facilitate early and proper implementation that would be most beneficial to all stakeholders, most importantly, the security of the nation’’.
The letter was copied to President Buhari, the MD of NPA, CEO of Nigerian Shippers Council and the DG of Bureau of Public Procurement.
It reads in part: “While the implementation of the CTN is an affair for the Ministry of Transportation, there are immense security benefits including real time information on movement of goods across borders and advance intelligence on shipments, crucial to enhancing control measures on illegal importation of items detrimental to national security.
“Consequently, it is important to ensure thorough vetting of the service provider and due diligence in the implementation process to ensure all issues likely to jeopardize national security are adequately addressed.
“This is bearing in mind that the Federal Government had failed in its earlier attempts to implement the CTN in 2010 and 2015 because the attempts were marred by incompetency as well as shady dealings of some firms involved in the project.
“It is also important to note that the failed processes are partly responsible for illegal importation of arms, ammunition and other items contributing to current spate of insecurity in the country.’’
But Amaechi in a letter to the President dated Oct. 15, 2021, exposed the dysfunction and disharmony in the political system and reported the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari to him about what he called “perceived undue interest being exhibited by him in the procurement process of this project in a manner that appears designed to undermine my ministry and its agencies and compromise my responsibilities as minister in charge of the process.’’
He accused Gambari of meddlesomeness in a bid to successfully beguile the president for his approval without recourse to Gambari for his advice.
Amaechi stated:“ I must express my concern at the manner in which the Chief of Staff, regrettably, has consistently sought to impose his personal opinions and interests in purportedly advising your office on issues relating to procurement processes in my ministry within the system in the procurement matters of the INTELS contracts, the channel management contracts and now the ICTN scheme.
“I am particularly concerned that his opposition to my ministry’s initiatives in respect of the ICTN scheme have increased in tempo after the visit of a certain Miss Bilikisu Gambari at his behest, to my office with her partners to solicit for the award of this same ICTN contract in which request was not granted.’’
Amaechi, however, successfully persuaded and influenced Mr President to grant his “prayers’’ as contained in the letter as follow: “In view of the foregoing, I respectfully solicit Your Excellency’s intervention and directives in respect of the following matters:
“(i) That the Chief of Staff should refrain from these multiple acts of interference in procurement processes in my ministry and the agencies in the interest of service harmony and in order to ensure that Your Excellency is given the benefit of honest and objective advice devoid of personal interest at all times, especially in relation to matters affecting the Federal Ministry of Transportation and ;
“(ii) That the procurement process as earlier approved by Your Excellency should continue and be concluded by the Federal Ministry of Transportation/Nigerian Shippers Council.’’
It was also gathered that on Oct. 18, 2021 the same day the President “gave the approval’’, the Chief of Staff wrote Amaechi a two-paragraph letter on the subject matter, drawing his attention to the President’s “notation of his prayers (i) and approval of (ii) above.
Persecondnews recalls that Amaechi, the current two-term Minister and Buhari’s two-time campaign Director-General is in the forefront of promoting INTELS, a company owned by ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Amaechi, a former member of PDP and one-time governor of Rivers State’s desperate quest for the actualisation of a long-standing political ambition, may be responsible for the preference of the restoration of all business relationships between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Integrated Logistics Nigeria Limited (INTELS).
Sources told Per Second News over the weekend that by working for the restoration of INTELS contracts, the minister may have been killing two birds with one stone by building a financial war chest and worming himself back into the heart of Atiku Abubakar, who still aspires to contest for the presidency in 2023 and may be disposed to considering Ameachi as running mate, all things being equal.
Sources told Persecondnews.com that a recent announcement by Atiku’s divestment from INTELS, was an attempt to hoodwink Nigerians.
“I can bet that he is still involved in the company. This was only a gimmick coming from the belief that government wanted to ruin his business interests, but all NPA wanted was just compliance with the laws.
“Why art there not problems on their other businesses for instance. The boat pilotage brings in a lot of money, but the contract has expired after a 15-year period, they were allowed to participate in the tenders, got disqualified for flouting the rules but the minister does not seem to want to hear that. ”
PSN recalls that Amaechi while inaugurating the administrative panel set up to probe the management of the NPA penultimate week, had urged the panel to “examine and investigate Issues leading to the termination of pilotage and other contracts of Nigerian Ports Authority and confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court rulings and Presidential directives.”
Before the inauguration of the panel, the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman was suspended after Amaechi secured a mid-night approval from Buhari to pave way for the investigation.
The channels in contention are: Lagos, Port Harcourt (Bonny) and Warri while Calabar is under litigation. Each channel management contract is valued at $100 million a year for five years making it $1.5 billion (N600 billion) for the three channels for the five years.
No fewer than 13 companies submitted technical bids for Lagos Channel, 25 companies for Warri while 18 companies bid for Bonny.