The name of Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed, has been taken off the list of directors and shareholders of a company which got a controversial N3.6 billion vehicle supply contract in a fraudulent filing which backdated processes, PREMIUM TIMES investigation shows.
This newspaper first exposed Mr Mohammed’s involvement with Adda Nigeria Limited, a company he co-owns with a close friend of his, Abdullahi Yari, in a series of stories published in February.
The stories caused ripples and condemnation, with lawyers and activists questioning legality and morality of the action, which contravenes Nigerian laws.
A spokesperson for Mr Mohammed at the time denied any wrongdoing and a government statement later claimed the Bauchi governor was not the Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir listed as director and shareholder of the company.
Months of fresh investigations and search at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the government agency responsible for licensing and regulating companies in Nigeria, reveal a surreptitious operation leading to the removal of Mr Mohammed’s name from the company.
Prior to his election as governor last year, Mr Mohammed was standing trial for alleged corrupt activities during his stay as the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The anti-corruption agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), first filed 6-count charges against Mr Mohammed on October 10, 2017. He was accused of abuse of office and land racketeering.
In April 2019, weeks after his election as governor, the agency slammed an amended charge 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 the ownership of some of his properties.
But with his inauguration as governor on May 29, the EFCC had to halt his prosecution, in deference to the constitutional immunity from prosecution enjoyed by holders of a similar position of his in Nigeria.
Mr Mohammed and Adda Nigeria Ltd
Adda Nigeria Limited, first incorporated in October 1996 with a share capital of 500,000, has four directors.
The major nominal shareholder named Abdullahi Salihu Bawa holds 200,000 share capital while Mr Mohammed and two other persons, who appear to be Mr Bawa’s children, maintained 100,000 share capital each.
Mr Bawa, more commonly known as Abdullahi Yari, is a close ally of Mr Mohammed.
The latter name was used in nominating Mr Bawa as the Company Secretary of Adda Nigeria Limited on August 1, 2019, two months after Mr Mohammed was sworn in as the state governor.
Records obtained by this newspaper from the CAC in January show that Mr Mohammed was in 2006 reappointed as a director of the company.
The company documents, however, did not indicate the purpose of the reappointment; whether it was a result of re-entry after exit or renewal of the mandate.
How the contract was awarded
The earliest trace of the controversial contract available to PREMIUM TIMES 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 one Muhammed Sabo Abdullahi on behalf of the permanent secretary of the Finance and Economic Development ministry, prayed the governor to approve the purchase from Adda Nigeria Limited, which put the cost 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”.
Official cover-up for unapproved expenditure
In a February 26 story, PREMIUM TIMES established how top civil servants lied to cover up for the sham process and excluded the contract from vetting and listing by the state’s procurement agency as provided by law.
In his July 9 memo, Mr Abdullahi claimed that the state’s 2019 budget provides for N3.5 billion for the purpose under the budget of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
“[T]here is adequate budgetary provision in the 2019 Budget of the Ministry under Code 2310165-03101 with N3.5 billion to cater for the expenditure,” the official wrote as part of the 2-page memo.
Scrutiny of the 2019 budget of the ministry by our reporter shows no such provision. The budget code is also non-existent in the budget document.
Also, the contract awarded to Adda Nigeria Limited alone is worth more than 200 per cent of the total capital expenditure for the Finance ministry.
The ministry’s capital provision for the year stands at N1,111,500,000 with N1 billion earmarked for “purchase of motor vehicles”.
The Finance Ministry had, from May to September 2019, awarded five vehicles procurement contracts costing N881,537,000, thereby exhausting almost 90 per cent of the budgeted amount.
The state’s entire budget for official vehicles for the three arms of government is also short of N3.6 billion, the value of the controversial contract.
In addition to breaching Nigeria’s Code of Conduct Law, the award of the contract also conflicted with Section 25 Bauchi Procurement Law which forbids officials involved in the procurement process from partaking in contract bidding or corporate with bidders.
The Code of Conduct Law, in sections 5 and 6 , bars public officers from putting themselves in positions of conflict of interest and disallows them from partaking in any business other than farming.
Aside from distortions to give room for the contract approval, PREMIUM TIMES also noticed that the contract is missing from the list of government contracts for the year 2019.
A document obtained from the website of the Bauchi State Public Procurement, Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Agency left out the huge supply contract among awarded projects for the year.
The exclusion of the procurement agency from the contract award process contravenes Section 14 and 16 of the Bauchi State Public Procurement, Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Agency Law (2017).
In what appears to be a move to cover the tracks from possible criminal proceedings, the name of Mr Mohammed is now replaced in a back-dated filing at the CAC.
Sources and documentary evidence obtained by PREMIUM TIMES show connivance between promoters of the company and the Registrar General of the CAC, Garba Abubakar, in removing Mr Mohammed’s name through fraudulent means.
Interestingly, Mr Abubakar hails from Mr Mohammed’s state of Bauchi.
A top source familiar with the deal told PREMIUM TIMES the Registrar General was “deeply involved” in the process.
This newspaper gathered that after the stories were published, Mr Abubakar recalled the Adda Nigeria Ltd file to his office where it has remained under close guard, even after completing the changes.
A request put forward to search for the file, as is the wont for lawyers conducting a routine search, returned no result a number of times.
When a request was filed on March 2 asking for the file of the company the lawyer was told that it was not on the shelf.
On submitting the request for the second time on March 4, it came back with a note: “File in RC’s office”.
Months later, the CAC was not forthcoming with letting out the file for the usual scrutiny by lawyers requesting information.
But a copy of new documents in the file obtained by this newspaper on August 13 shows that Mr Mohammed was replaced as a director of the company in May 2019.
The documents show that the filing was purportedly done on August 1, 2019. This could not, however, be true as search done in January by this newspaper showed otherwise.
In place of Mr Mohammed the company now appoints Abdullahi Mujahid Yari as a shareholder and director of the company.
The filing again confirmed Mr Mohammed’s address which in February was established by this newspaper as the governor’s family house at Gombe Road, Bauchi.
Lawyer Confirms Backdated Filing
The lawyer who handled the filing for Adda Nigeria Limited, Bala Abdullahi, told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that the filing was done this year.
“I did not change the names. I only filed for them,” he said.
Reminded that the filing was done this year although the documents were backdated, the lawyer confirmed that he filed the documents this year.
On being reminded the documents carried a retrospective date, Mr Abdullahi said “I am not disputing that.”
CAC won’t comment
The spokesperson for the CAC, Laraba Shuaibu, said she would not comment on the issue when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES.
“Honestly, I don’t know what you are talking about,” she told our reporter.
When the reporter requested that she listen to the explanation for her response, Mrs Shuaibu remained unyielding.
“Even if you explain to me on the phone, since I have not seen the file, the fact of the matter is not before me, I will not be in a position to comment on it.”