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The Secretary, Nigeria Peace and Security Forum, Mr. Salaudeen Hashim, and the National Coordinator, the Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy, Mr. Taiwo Otitolaye, have decried an unfair treatment meted out to Nigerian businessmen by the Liberia government.
In separate interviews, they stated that it was wrong, untidy and unacceptable, for a Nigerian company, INITS and its partners, EKEMP, a Chinese firm and Palm Insurance, a Liberian company, that successfully won the right to supply and deliver biometric equipment, software, and materials for the 2023 voter registration exercise for Liberia in an international bidding process, to be treated unfairly.
According to them, the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia after INITS and its partners, EKEMP and Palm Insurance, made an acceptable presentation and defeated other bidders for the project, granted them the right.
Hashim said: “The electoral body consequently submitted request for a no objection to Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) on August 30, seeking legal authorisation to grant the company and its partners the right to begin the procurement of biometric equipment for the 2023 general elections.
“However, in a shocking move, the PPCC of Liberia rejected the award and called for a new presentation by all the bidders including some who couldn’t successfully complete their demonstration before the evaluation committee.
“But the NEC Chairperson, Davietta Brown Lansanah in a response letter to the PPCC on September 13; insisted that all procedures as mentioned in the bid document were followed and executed accordingly and that the procurement panel evaluated all bidders unbiasedly and selected INITS/EKEMP and its partners as the most responsive bidder.”
Hashim opposed the unfair treatment of the Nigerian company and its partners.
He said, “It is absolutely wrong. It is completely unacceptable and of course, it does not reflect the friendship Nigeria has always extended to Liberia as fellow ECOWAS member. For a company that has actually submitted, successfully gone through an international bidding process and came out preferred, the directive of PPCC for a representation is suspected to be an effort to jeopardise INITS and her partners and give undue advantage to those other participants who did not fare well in the original presentation. He called on Nigeria Ministry of Foreign Affairs and especially, Nigeria Ambassador to Liberia to quickly intervene and get to the root of the matter
“What exactly is The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) meant to achieve? African Continental Trade Agreement was brought to the table to be able to provide the absence of barriers and discriminations around services among signatories to the agreement. If this is happening, I think it is important AfCFTA secretariat is notified, and also approach the African Union and tell them that this is exactly what is happening. Almost every country on the continent has signed up for that agreement. So if that is the case, how much are we having this sort of selective discriminatory approach to the award of the contract?
“I find it very untidy. Nigeria played a very significant role in Liberia and how they have gone this far.
Otitolaye said, “If there is a procurement act or a law in Liberia that stipulates the process and procedure of which contracts are awarded, any company that meets such procedure and went through the bidding process and came top, for openness and transparency in the procurement process, the company that won the bid should be upheld.
“Also as a West African country, if a Nigerian company and its allies come out as the most responsive in the bidding process as clearly stated by the evaluation committee of NEC, why should they be denied on the flimsy excuse that the presentations were not recorded. It is clear that there is a possible conspiracy theory to usurp the Nigeria Company/her and partner in favor of another company who is not as good”
The Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) while objecting to the request of NEC and rejecting the procurement right given to INITS and its partners, EKEMP and Spring Insurance on the following insinuations, excoriated the NEC for claiming that EKEMP and its joint venture partners met all of its bid requirements.
The PPCC Executive Director, Atty. Jargbe Roseline Nagbe Kowo, in a letter to the NEC on September 9 claimed that from the PPCC’s review of the NEC’s request, it observed that none of the electoral body’s bid evaluation panel in its entirety watched the bid demonstrations exercise, as there is no proof showing a full report of the demonstration process. However, the evaluation committee confirms their personal appearance and individually signed the report of the committee send to NEC procurement, video recording the process has never been a requirement from PPCC except suddenly in this case.
According to her, as per the NEC’s submission to PPCC, a determining factor under the bidding process was the demonstration of the biometric process including the enrolment and de-duplication processes.
“The usability and functionality of biometric equipment and software were key factors for NEC’s evaluation, and also determining factors upon which some bidders were eliminated as per the [NEC] biometric evaluation panel report.”
Hashim warned that deliberate discrimination against Nigerian companies who desires to do legitimate business in Liberia may compromise the existing cordial diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries. He recalled that Nigeria has in the time past paid significant costs both in human life and resources to secure the peace that the Nation enjoys today even when most other countries abandoned Liberia.