Diplomatic backlash, legal tussle loom as FG dumps German firm over Kano Project – INVESTIGATION

By Danlami Nmodu

For Communities and stakeholders in Kano waiting for an end to the ecological disaster ravaging the Sharada, Challawa and Bompai industrial areas, the unfolding events seem like scenes out horror films. The details of struggle to clean up the environment have manifested with curious twists and turns.It is all about the contract for the establishment of Integrated Industrial Pollution Management Facility at Challawa,Sharada and Bompai Industrial Areas in Kano,Kano State (Phase 1)

There are fears according to Newsdiaryonline sources that the saga could take take a diplomatic turn especially with German and other global powers watching the events closely.

SGF, Perm Sec EFO fuel fresh worry

The latest twist according to investigations by Newsdiaryonline is that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha has approved additional the payment of N417,990,976.30 in favour of a contractor, Messrs.Alps Global Link Limited.

The SGF according a document seen by Newsdiaryonline approved the latest of fund for the contractor based on a request by the Consultant Messrs. WestGold Engineering and Development Consultants Limited, for the release of funds.This request was further communicated to the SGF by the Permanent Secretary Ecological Fund Office(EFO), Dr (Mrs) Habiba Lawal in a memo she signed on 1 November 2019 with Reference Number EF/PROC/PC/187/VOL.1/149.Her request was granted on November 5, 2019 a time that President Muhammadu Buhari has been in London enjoying his private visit.

However, Kano Stakeholders have told Newsdiaryonline that the company receiving the payment (Alps Global Link Limited) was not the one that conducted the preliminary research in conjunction with Kano State Government beginning from 2010 or thereabout. Documents seen by Newsdiaryonline indicate that it was a German Company Deutsch Africa that began the process and was in fact invited by Kano state Government for the project.

Problem and protest arose, according to insiders, when the Ecological Fund Office chose to dump the German company despite all the professional assessment and commitments already given by the German company.

Was Buhari misled?

Documents sighted by Newsdiaryonline reporter indicate that the SGF did not let President Buhari make an informed choice when he was presented with the memo to approve funds for the Kano project among others.For instance, there was no indication on the memo that a German firm was behnd the project in concert with the stakeholders. Neither was any reason given why a new contractor was given the Kano project in the memo to the president for the approval of projects.

Instead the SGF memo to Buhari received by the Office of the President 12 December 2018 merely sought approval for ecological intervention projects .

Titled: “Request for Approval of Ecological intervention Projects for the Third Quarter 2018” the memo signed by SGF Boss Mustapha 10th December,2018 reads in part “The purpose of this memo is to seek for His Excellency’s approval and release of the Sum of N15,704,708,847.42{Fifteen Billion,Seven Hundred and Four Million, Seven Hundred and Eight Thousand,Eight Hundred and Fourt seven Naira and Fourty-two Kobo) only, for executing 16 Ecological projects and Ecological Fund Office Operational Cost proposed for the third Quarter 2018.Annex 1.”

Rationalising the memo, the SGF appealed to the President’s pet ideals of encouraging farming and providing succor to distressed communities.

“Mr President is invited to note that various part (sic) of the country are bedeviled by some Ecological challenges including devastating recurrent flooding,soil and gully erosion. These problems have impacted negatively on the socio-economic lives of the affected communities most especially farming

“In addition, some higher institutions of learning are also adversely affected by the erosion problems thereby affecting the learning environment and research.

“In view of the above and the pressure being mounted by the distressed communities ,it has become necessary to recommend the execution of some of these projects. Mitigating the effect of these ecological challenges will ameliorate the suffering of the affected communities and provide a befitting learning environment.

The president was thus presented with a list of 17 items(in the Annex 1) including 16 Projects. Among the project listed was the one for Kano State in the north west described as the Establishment of an Integrated Industrial Pollution Management Facility at Challawa, Sharada and Bompai Industrial Areas (Phase 1).The cost of the Kano project was pegged at N2,960,343,000.06.

The approval for the memo and a directive to the Federal Ministry of Finance to release the approved funds was given by President Buhari on 13 December 2018.This approval was duly conveyed to the SGF same day.

Sources hinted Newsdiaryonline that what was evidently unknown to the President, was that the contract for the Kano Ecological project he approved along with other would not be awarded to the most competent German firm which had done the legwork on the matter for years before.

The Contract

From documents seen by our reporter, after the Presidential approval, the Kano project along with others went through some processes including BPE review with new figures.

On March 25th 2019, the Ecological Fund Office in a letter by one Mohammed Abdullahi,Assistant Director (Procurement ) for the SGF, conveyed a notification of contract award to the Managing Director Alps Global Link Limited,with an address in Abuja.

It says,”Iam directed to convey the approval of the Federal Executive Council meeting of 13th March,2019 for the award of contract to your company for the Establishment of Integrated Industrial Pollution Management Facility at Challawa,Sharada and Bompai Industrial Areas of Kano State(Phase 1) at the contract sum of N2,618,852,550.56(Two Billion,Six Hundred and Eighteen Million,Eight Hunddred and Fifty –two Thousand,Five Hundred and Fifty Naira,Fifty –six Kobo only,with a completion period of twelve(12)months.

The unanswered question remains:at what point did Alps Global Link Limited enter the fray since all the dealings over the Kano Project had been with Deutsch Africa.

The German offer, protest that were snubbed

As far back as April 2016, Deutsch Africa wrote a letter to the Permanent Secretary Ecological Fund Office ,OSGF,The Presidency highlighting the summary of the Decentralized Wastewater Treatment System,DEWATS projects for Sharada and Challawa Industrial Estates Of Kano.It stated in part that the projects are to be jointly funded by BORDA and the Federal Government of Nigeria via EFOin the ration 1/3:2/3 respectively.The Foreign partners have since been ready with their(1/3 part of the project funding…”The letter affirmed that BORDA was ready to fund 1/3 in kind. “BORDA intervened because of the seeming paucity of funds and inability of Kano State Government to come up with financial commitment.As an Overseas Development Agency,such gestures fall within BORDA’s mandate as it has done in Asia and Southern Africa.

The letter further said “ this project is anchored on a German proven technology that does not require the use of conventional energies.It has a very high probability to attract external funding from European Union(EU) World Bank,United Nations Development Program(UNDP),United Nations Environmental Program(UNEP) and other international donors because of its direct impact on the communities…”

There is also abundant evidence that the Office of the SGF had been adequately briefed about the Kano project and Deutsch Africa had as far back as 2017 written to the office requesting the approval and release of N4.4billion counterpart fund.The 2017 letter to the SGF identified details of the collaboration including the adoption of DEWATS technology,”securing one-third counterpart funding for the implementation of both plants through our principal,BORDA;(and) collaboration with Bayero University Kano for Inter Faculty exchange with University of Bremen on relevant technology transfer for long term management of such environmental disasters, Dr Michael Okoh,General Manager,Deutsch Africa said in a letter.

In May 2017, the Ecological Fund Office wrote to the Deutsch Africa Marketing Company Limited acknowledging receipt of their letter of appeal for release of N4.4bn counterpart funding for the DEWATS project in Challawa and Sharada.The EFO letter said the “request was being processed for further necessary consideration.”

Surprisingly, the Ecological Fund Office and the OSGF went ahead to seek approval for another contractor.No one has explained what happened.

Newsdiaryonline however observed from available records that Deutsch Africa put up a spirited fight for the project.

German firm asks Attorney General of Federation to Intervene

Precisely on 7th February 2019,Deutsch Africa wrote a petition to the Attorney General of the Federation,Federal Ministry of Justice requesting the AGF to intervene on the DEWATS Challawa,Sharada and Bompai project

Detailing the events that have transpired, Aliyu H.Mijinyawa, General Manager(Admin) of Deutsch Africa told the AGF how the counterpart funding arrangement by BORDA and his company have agreed upon would save FGN a whopping N2.2billion aside collaboration with BUK among others.

He added that hitherto, it was understood that the contract would be awarded to Deutsch Africa through selective tendering or direct contracting in line with the Public procurement Act.

He revealed that “ However to our utter shock ,we discovered two days ago that the EFO has concluded plans to award the comtract to other companies without notifying us.It is curious as to how the Ecological Fund Office will sidetrack a company that is providing Counterpart funding equivalent to N2.2 billion and other benefits to Nigeria and Nigerians to award the contract to another company.It is even more baffling when the company chosen to be awarded the contract know nothing about development of the technology to be deployed in the execution of the project.

The petition recalled that the company had been on the matter since 2010 ,investing its time and resources in the project.Mijinyawa said it would “be unjust for us to be denied.”He therefore urged the AGF to intervene for justice to be done

Again on 11 April 2019, Mijinyawa wrote to the AGF urging him to restrain the Ecological Fund Office from further actions.Acccording to Deutsh Africa’s General manager(Admin)”Despite pending petition the EFO went ahead and sent a list of Companies to the BPP on 18t February 2019.It seems that the EFO is hellbent on jettisoning competence and multiple benefits on offer to Nigeria through our company,to award the contract to a one-man business, an entity that has no relevant experience in the environmental field…”.

He added, “the EFO has also ignored political and diplomatic implications of this action.Political in the sense that Kano State ,with huge population and continued support for Mr President ,is being short-changed.Diplomatic, being that this may affect funding sought by President Muhammadu Buhari on the recharge of Lake Chad, a project dear to him,which will go a long way in getting a permanent solution to the terrorist activities in the North East.”

Protests, appeals by Kano Community and threat of legal suit

Newsdiaryonline learnt that Local communities and traditional rulers have made representations in the past to the Federal government on the project.Notably the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11 had cause to weigh in the past

However, as the frustration over the intrigues by the EFO deepens, it was learnt a legal firm has written to the Attorney General of the Federal on behalf of the Community.The firm asked the AGF to also intervene.

Lawseed and Partners titled its SePtember 2019 letter to the AGF “Complaint against suspicious award of contract for the treatment of Industrial effluents in Challawa,Sharada and Bompai Industrial Areas of Kano State by the Ecological Fund Office.Acting on behalf of the communities, the law firm expressed surprise that “ the Ecological Fund Office in a suspicious circumstance awarded the contract to a company which does not have any track record in environmental management ..”

N.S Uthman of the law firm said inter alia that “based on the foregoing,we have a firm instruction of our clients to institute legal action before a competent court of law for redress.” Howver ,he too urged the AGF to intervene.

What happens to the ‘suspicious’ payments so far approved by SGF to the Contractor

According to N.S.Uthman, the award of the Kano project to a new contractor was suspicious.The fact remains that from documents sighted by Newsdiaryonline, the Ecological Fund Office has continued to ensure massive approvals by the SGF for payment to the Contractor.

Aside from the approval of N417m payment in November in favour of the anointed contractor, another 392m had earlier been paid.

The permanent Secretary,EFO, Habiba Lawal in her November 2019 memo to the SGF stated: “It is pertinent to highlight that :the 15% Mobilization Fee earlier paid to the contractor in the sum of N392,827,882.56 vide pages 54-62 of file,has been fully amortized in IPC (Interim Payment Certificate) No.1(See FOT at page 143);

“The 2.5% administrative charges of N58,003,378.75 has been deducted in IPC No.1;

“N850,701,067.36 has been paid as IPC No.1(See page 114 of file;

“Consequently,if IPC No.2 in the sum of 417,990,976.33 is approved and paid, the contractor would have been paid the sum of N1,719,523,305.00 inclusive of 2.5% Admin Charges, leaving a balance of N899,329,245.56 in the project account.”

Who will bell the cat?

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