Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
Bauchi State Funds and Assets Recovery Committee set up by Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed has expressed indicted the immediate past governor, Barrister Mohammed Abubakar, over alleged looting of the state’s assets and properties.
Addressing a press conference Thursday, the committee Chairman, Senator Isa Hamma Misau, accused the former governor of selling to himself seven luxury and utility vehicles belonging to Bauchi State Government in violation of provisions of state Budget Monitoring, Price Intelligence and Public Procurement Law.
The vehicles, according to the chairman, included Land Cruiser Armoured Jeep auctioned at the cost of N7,800,000.00; Land Cruiser V8 sold at the cost of N2,800,000.00; two Toyota Hilux Vehicles sold at the cost of N1,050,000.00 each; and three Range Rover (Jeep) auctioned at the cost of N2,114,700.00., N2,947,875.00 and N2,114,700.00 respectively.
Misau added that the committee discovered 30 exotic vehicles allocated to his political appointees and public office holders that had left office but were never returned, pointing out that “the committee has already recovered 15 of such vehicles and, is on the trail of the remaining 15 with a view to recovering and returning them to government pool. In the same vein, the committee has taken steps to recover the vehicles that the former governor arbitrarily sold to himself.”
Shedding more light on the committee’s work, he said it was also discovered that former governor initiated a transaction and sold to himself a house with the Certificate of Occupancy No. BA/40245 located adjacent to Wikki Hotel, belonging to Bauchi State Government, at a highly subsidised rate.
This, according to him, was also in gross violation of the Bauchi State Budget Monitoring, Price Intelligence and Public Procurement Law.
The committee chairman also said between October 2016 and May 2018 alone, nearly N1.4 billion was allegedly stolen.
“Furthermore, there were deductions in the name of civil servants in Bauchi State for National Housing Fund supposed to be paid to the Federal Mortgage Bank but diverted to private pockets, amounting to nearly N350 million. Under these direct withdrawals and theft, we have a total of about N2.5 billion. The culprits have been identified and efforts have reached advanced stage to retrieve the amount, and carry out appropriate prosecution,” he said.
On the award of contracts, Misau said the committee also uncovered alleged multi-billion naira fraudulent and questionable contracts, some of them fully paid for, but were either abandoned or completely not executed.
The chairman said the committee discovered a highly suspicious contract on Paris Club recovery awarded to a consultant, Mauritz Walton.
“What makes this contract even more suspicious was the claim by the consultant to have received N5 billion being part payment from Bauchi State Government, waiting for a balance of N3 billion.
“However, according to payment voucher from the state treasury, and a bank statement of account of Bauchi State showed a figure much less than what he claimed to have received.
“Apparently, the consultant has no idea on how much he has actually been paid. This underscores the shoddy nature of the contract. It is shocking that from our preliminary findings, there was no such consultancy work performed by the presumed consultant to warrant payment of such whooping amount of money. It is on record that Nigeria Governors’ Forum had hired a consultant on behalf of all the states of the federation on the same issue. The committee is about to conclude its investigation, and certainly recover the amount fraudulently paid to the so called consultant,” he added.
On road projects, Misau said: “This contract (4.5km CBN Roundabout) is the most controversial of all the contacts awarded under the administration of former Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar.
“The 4.5km road contract was originally awarded at the cost of N2,328,679,294.33 on 3rd November, 2015. The committee observed that this contract was reviewed twice, in the sum of N1,744,338,324.33 and N2,428,995,536.88 respectively. As at today, the contractor has been paid a total sum of N2,786,321,283.45. The committee’s valuation of work done to date is only N1,318,692,684.54, implying that an overpayment to the tune of N1,467,628,598.91 has been made to the contractor, Messrs QUMECS Nigeria Limited.
“It is disheartening that after all these payments, work was abandoned and the contractor is not on site. The upward review of this contract, the committee observed, was done illegally which led to the overpayment as mentioned.”
Also speaking, a member and Public Relations Officer of the committee, Umar Barau Ningi, expressed shock that the state government between 2007 and 2015 collected loans of N100,961,539,849.33 without the authorisation of the state House of Assembly as required by extant law.
Ningi said the unauthorised loans were parts of the total loans of N135,145,096,050.84 the state collected during the period under review.
Ningi, a former permanent secretary in the state, explained that of the total loans Bauchi State collected during the period, only N34,183,556,201.51 followed Due Process of Law.
The committee’s spokesman disclosed that a total of N881,464,360.73 was interest charge on the unauthorised loans.
The 21-member Funds and Assets Recovery Committee which was constituted by the present administration in the state, was inaugurated on July 12 to recover all stolen funds and assets belonging to the people of Bauchi State.