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Multi-billion dollar ICTN contract: How Amaechi, Malami stampede, pressure court over Public Procurement Act violation suit

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The Minister of Transportation and presidential aspirant, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, have used their executive positions to pressure and stampede the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to dispose of a suit against Amaechi over alleged violations of the Public Procurement Act in a multi-billion dollar maritime contract.

 

Rotimi Amaechi

 

Both Amaechi and Malami’s lawyers had written to the court to pressure it to change the hearing of the pending Notice of Preliminary objection and not the substantive suit earlier fixed by the court for May 9, 2022 to April to be heard by a vacation judge, citing urgency based on national security to justify or cover up corruption, fraudulent misrepresentation and cronyism by the Transport Minister.

 

The preliminary objection seeks to terminate the substantive suit without considering it along with the issues raised in the substantive suit itself.

 

Persecondnews recalls that the Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) had alerted the public and President Muhammadu Buhari that proper due process and minimum adherence to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act are not followed and that corruption, fraudulent misrepresentation, malfeasance and cronyism characterized the current implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), a national security project.

 

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 Nigeria.

 

Also known as Advance Shipment Information System, Advance Cargo Declaration, ICTN is a global application in shipping trade that will provide accurate shipping data as well as monitor and verify cargo in transit from the port of loading to the port of destination.

 

Consequently, CASER filed a public interest suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, against the Minister of Transportation, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Attorney General of the Federation and the two companies handpicked by Amaechi for the contract – Medtech Scientific Ltd and Rozi International Nigeria Ltd to expose corruption and incompetence involved in Amaechi’s “overdrive mode’’ to implement the ICTN.

 

The Federal High Court had granted CASER’s applications, first by ex-parte and later, on notice, by restraining the Transport Minister from taking any steps to appoint the companies which he claimed were not only fraudulently incompetent but would compromise the national security of Nigeria.

 

FRABEMAR, according to documents sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was kicked out of Congo, Mali, and some other African countries for fraud against the states, corrupting ministers, and government officials.

 

The Office of Inspector-General of Police had on August 31, 2012 indicted FRABEMAR and the state company, OGEFREM of corruption and embezzlement.

 

Amaechi working with the former ES of Nigerian Shippers Council had singlehandedly appointed Messers Medtech Scientific Ltd in partnership with Rozi International Nig. Ltd, and misinformed the president that Messrs Medtech Scientific Limited was the most qualified from the specialized companies selected to do this tendering, and Rozi International Ltd would be their local content partner, Persecondnews had reported.

 

Curiously, the same expert companies Medtech Scientific Limited have now employed their technical partners  Frademar UK Ltd and hidden in small prints in a shabbily done OBC to ICRC, Frademar SRL Genova Italy. While Frademar UK Ltd is registered as a textile trading company, it is actually a shell company used to mask Frademar SRL which is merely a shipping agency. These great efforts to mask Frabemar SRL clearly show that this was a premeditated and well-thought-out fraudulent scheme by Rt Hon Rotimi Amechi and Mr Hassan Bello.

 

The Minister who had circumvented due process in the award of the multi-billion dollar contract for the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), had only recently raised a team, populated with individuals who had been instructed to deliver a prearranged report, to visit Italy and London in a bid to show some semblance of carrying out the required “due diligence’’ as was recommended by ICRC, on the companies. These individuals were drawn from the Nigerian Shippers Council, ICRC, and Federal Ministry of Transportation.

 

But a simple peep into the companies, coupled with the OBC sent to ICRC by Nigerian Shippers Council would have shown that they have absolutely NO experience and knowledge of the service they want to render. Medtech is a medical equipment supply company registered and operating here in Nigeria, but choose to use their UAE branch for this scheme. The company has neither implemented CTN for any country nor possessed any known platform to do so.

 

It is also worthy of note that this company had clearly indicated that they were mere “Cargo Tracking Note AGENTS” in the OBC they submitted to Shippers Council/Ministry of Transportation and same submitted to ICRC which had been immensely pressured to issue a very “strange’’ certificate of compliance to.

 

In his “wisdom’’ and to perpetrate the scam, the minister picked a medical company in Nigeria without professional competence and knowledge in International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), thereby bypassing known and established procurement laws. This had put him in direct conflict with the “no-nonsense” DG of BPP, and is a matter now pending in a federal high court, where an NGO, Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights, had sort and obtained an interim order stopping this monumental fraud about to be committed on Nigerians with the prevailing insecurity and economic challenges, and asking the court to compel BPP and Federal Ministry of Transportation to follow our known procurement laws as set in the procurement act.

 

Persecondnews.com investigations show that in a bid to give the contract a semblance of due diligence riding on the requirements demanded by ICRC, after he Amaechi had spurned and called the bluff of the National Security Adviser, retired Major-General Babagana Monguno and the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) who had flagged and queried the non-competitiveness of the multi-billion contract award without the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and BPE as required by law, Amaechi selected a team of loyalists from the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Shippers Council and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to embarked on a trip to Italy and UK to perfect the scam, and have since returned and done their report.

 

The minister had in a 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.’’

 

The anticipatory approval of the President obtained outside the Federal Executive Council meeting has continued to set tongues wagging among stakeholders in the industry.

 

The duo invited the minister to several meetings over security and economic implications of the project which he repudiated and never batted an eye because he had hoodwinked President Muhammadu Buhari to get “a midnight approval.’’

 

Rising to the occasion and to bust the scam, also, the Civil Society Against Business Malpractices (CSABM) – maritime practitioners and watchers – had blown the whistle on the implementation of ICTN in a 14-page petition dated September 9, 2021 and signed by Aliyu Suleiman (Chairman) and James Zaki (Secretary), alerting the nation 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.’’

 

However, there is an extraordinarily desperate move by the Transport Minister in the name of “urgency’’ to frustrate the proper hearing of the suit which is meant to expose corruption and incompetence of the companies which he planned to force on the Federal Executive Council meeting to approve to the detriment and compromise of Nigeria’s national security and economic interests at its seaports.

 

The hearing of the substantive suit had been adjourned to the 9th of May 2022 but the Counsel to the Minister, Prince Lateef Adegbite (SAN) had been putting pressure on the Chief Judge to transfer the case from Justice O.O. Okorowo to an Easter Vacation judge (for just two weeks) which CASER’s Counsel, Mr A.U. Mustapha (SAN) objected to, saying there was no urgency, especially in view of pending applications in the case.

 

The Chief Judge, Persecondnews recalls, had earlier agreed with Mustapha and declined the request to transfer the suit to the vacation judge, saying

 

“Besides, the Easter is just for two weeks and there is no guarantee that the vacation judge can gain any appreciable ground as to convey an advantage over the regular court in terms of hearing the suit.’’

 

But in a dramatic twist, the Chief Judge has now reversed his earlier decision, citing urgency based on national security and now ordered the suit be transferred to the vacation court which is now to hear only the preliminary objections and the application for joinder by a party and not the substantive suit.

 

“Why should a vacation court hear a preliminary objection that has already been filed before a sitting substantive judge? Does this amount to forum shopping?

 

“What difference does it make if the substantive judge hears the preliminary object on May 9, 2022 except to serve the private interest of the Honourable Minister of Transportation who is in a hurry to conclude the ICTN deal which we have alleged is laden with violations of the Public Procurement Act and tending to incompetence, fraud and cronyism?

 

The Honourable Minister’s ambition to contest for the office of the President of Nigeria is of public knowledge and there are indications that the hurry and the pressure on the chief judge to transfer the suit to a vacation judge to hear the preliminary objection is to quickly dispose of the entire suit prematurely simply to serve the interest of the Honourable Minister to enable him to conclude the unpatriotic deal before he resigns as he is expected to, in pursuit of his political ambition to be president of Nigeria.

 

“We strongly believe that the latest directive of the Chief Judge to transfer the suit as impressed on him by Counsel to the minster where there is no real urgency is but a self-serving one that is not in any way in the interest of Nigeria’s national security, thereby endangering the peace and welfare of Nigerians.

 

“We believe that the course of the administration of justice should run smoothly without any undue pressure. To this end, we are very uncomfortable with the latest directive of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court that a suit that is due to be heard in less than one month be transferred to a vacation judge for reasons which he had earlier considered to be highly untenable,’’ CASER said in a statement signed by the Executive Director, Barr, Frank Tietie and given to Persecondnews.com .

 

Also reacting to the Chief Judge’s sudden change of mind, CASER’s Counsel, Mr A.U. Mustapha (SAN), in a letter dated April 1, 2022 addressed to the judge, pointed out that Mr Amaechi had in a deliberate effort at undermining the court, disobeyed the order of the court by proceeding with the entire process of engaging the companies and commencing the implementation of the ICTN scheme.

 

He recalled that following the brazen disobedience of the order of the court, they commenced contempt proceedings against Amechi.

 

“However, on the 23rd of March 2022 when the matter came up for hearing, the defendants (Amaechi and others who had filed only preliminary objects without counter-affidavits to the substantive suit, argued that the preliminary objection arrangement is unsettling and unacceptable to us. It is an attempt at satiating his dictatorial tendencies and he has unfortunately chosen this honourable court as the object of his dictatorship.

 

“My Lord will be setting a very dangerous precedent where litigants who want to control the proceedings in a court in accordance with their whims and caprices will instigate their counsel, to write to the Chief Judge and dictate how the proceedings are to be conducted. We urge my Lord to resist the usurpation.’’

 

The Chief Judge, in a letter sighted by Persecondnews dated April 14, 2022 and signed by the Special Assistant, Ambrose Unaeze, addressed to Counsel to the first and second defendants (Amaechi and BPP) – Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), granted their requests.

 

Titled, “Request for accelerated hearing of case and re-assignment to a vacation judge’’, the chief judge wrote:“Therefore, in view of the extreme urgency emphasized with regard to the matter, there is good basis for referring the pending applications to be heard during the Easter vacation.

 

“Consequently, our letter dated 7th of April 2022 is canceled. The pending Notice of Preliminary Objection and the Application for Joinder in the suit (but not the suit itself) are re-assigned to the vacation court for determination.’’

 

All the counsel to the three other defendants also wrote to the Chief Judge to reinforce Amaechi’s request.

 

Counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Husaain Zakariyau (SAN) had written to the judge on April 1, 2022 while Rozi International Nig. Ltd’s counsel, Safiya Mohammed wrote a similar letter dated April 4, 2022 among others.

 

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