***TCN Boss adopted wrong procurement methods, says BPP
Serious allegations have emerged against Engr. Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), accusing him of violating the Public Procurement Act (PPA) of 2007 by unilaterally awarding 33 contracts running into billions of naira to alleged cronies and shell companies, according to Abuja City Journal’s investigations.
Our investigation reveals a troubling pattern of procurement violations, with Abdulaziz allegedly skirting established procedures and favoring allies in contract awarding. This has generated issues about TCN’s openness, accountability, and commitment to basic governance.
Insiders familiar with the situation told the Abuja City Journal that Abdulaziz may have used his position to approve these contracts without following standard procurement procedures, the required competitive bidding process, and, in some cases, were directed towards companies with alleged connections to Abdulaziz. The contracts, purportedly for cleaning vegetation near power transmission lines, have generated concerns due to their enormous financial ramifications.
Our investigations reveal that that agency’s boss awarded “emergency procurement” contracts at highly inflated prices which are in clear violations of the Procurement Act. One of our sources, a longtime staff of TCN, told us, “Most of the contracts awarded under emergency procurement are not emergency in nature. Emergency method of procurement is used by the MD to enable him massively inflate contract prices. And these contracts are awarded to his friends who in turn pull out the fund and remit such to him.”
The source went further to elaborate by saying “Under emergency procurement, the Act allows you to carry out the procurement but with the condition that after completing of work, you file a detailed report for retrospective no objection to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).”
TCN’s correspondence with the BPP, Ref No. TCN/MD/CEO/01/D.004/Vol.6/2104/2023, is in the custody of the Abuja City Journal. TCN submitted a request for no objection for “emergency procurement” to the BPP on February 21, 2022, citing the former’s “recently emergency works and supply contracts with reputable contractors” in an apparent desperate attempt to comply with Section 43(4) of the PPA of 2007.
In his reply, Engr Babatunde Kuye the Director of Energy Infrastructure Department in a letter on behalf of the BPP Director-General on 8 May 2023, the Bureau rejected the request citing the “wrong use of procurement methods” noting that the Bureau will invoke “requisite sanctions …on any of the professionals involved” in the unlawful acts.
We received an exclusive list of companies that benefited from the contracts, which included: Headstone Engineering Ltd, Auwal Bamanga Enterprises Ltd, Barton Solution Ltd, Bash Multi Link Ventures, Binhamzs Integrated Ventures Limited, Bling Integrated Services, CutEdge Technical Integrated, CutEdge Technical Integrated, Dabellfari Nigeria Limited, Danalog Multi Services Ltd, ElTayib Nigeria Limited, Frasier Stone Limited, Frasier Stone Limited, HakBen Associates Nig Ltd, Headstone Engineering Ltd, Hinterlands Associates Limited, Izam Construction and Properties Ltd, Jovick Classical Concept Ltd, Model Janitors Limited, Olive Tree Roots and Wings Ltd, Oreez Project Ltd, Reed Engineering Construction, Renox Limited, S BROS NIG LTD, Scoin Waves Limited, Scoin Waves Limited, Seerax Services Limited, Steel Base Resources Limited, Tamtam Project Limited, Todelard Construction Co Ltd, TosTai Seko 1234 Nigeria Co Ltd, TosTai Seko 1234 Nigeria Co Ltd, Vesta Multilink Project, Vesta Multilink Project, Weng Engineering Construction Nig Ltd, and Zanjabil Integrated Services Ltd.
The official explanation offered by TCN management for the carelessly granted contacts is their exigency. Our investigations reveal that the majority of these contracts were given for bush clearing (tree cutting) and erosion control on transmission towers.
Our undercover operatives were told during one of our visits to TCN office that the “tree cutting and bush clearing do not fall under emergency procurement. Section 43 of Public Procurement Act defines items that fall under emergency procurement. Trees and bushes don’t grow over night therefore method of procurement for their clearing should be open competitive bidding and not emergency procurement.”
He went further to say, “The reason why the current MD/CEO [of TCN] award these contracts under emergency procurement is to inflate the contract prices to enable him misappropriate fund. And for him to deceive the public and the BPP, he tagged them as ‘Mechanized Line Trace Maintenance work’ which is the same thing as tree cutting and bush clearing.”
When pressed further, he stated that TCN linemen patrol the TCN lines on a daily basis and write reports on areas that may require tree cutting and bush cutting. This, according to the source, indicates “that adequate notice was given to the MD/CEO but yet he decided to award them under emergency procurement to misappropriate billions of naira.”
Our investigations suggest that the TCN CEO employs one of his employees, Engr. C. Osuji, General Manager, Works and Services, as a front to coordinate the fraudulent financial activities on his behalf. Our investigations further reveal that Engr. Osuji has reached retirement age and should have begun his mandatory terminal leave from work in October 2023, but the MD/CEO prevented him from leaving due to the fraud that he is assisting in the commission of. This clearly violates Section 6.2.1 of the TCN Conditions of Service, which stipulates that “a compulsory leave granted to an employee for three (3) months prior to his/her retirement from service”
We observed that the majority of the contracts granted did not match the requirements of the International Competitive Bidding (ICB) or National Competitive Bidding (NCB). According to Abuja-based procurement expert Bayo Adeniyi, who spoke to Abuja City Journal, “contracts to be awarded under International Competitive Bidding (ICB) or National Competitive Bidding (NCB) in the agency must undergo soil tests to consider erosion-prone areas as contained in the Public Procurement Act. It is thus absurd for any agency head to grant such contracts under the guise of ‘emergency procurements’.” The logistics veteran also expressed his displeasure with Abdulaziz for allegedly re-awarding the same contracts under emergency procurement, which he claims is “potentially leading to financial mismanagement.”
One of our sources also queried why the MD/CEO re-awarded the same contracts to his friends, which he alleges were done “to embezzle funds under the pretense of works under emergency procurement.” He went on to explain, “These works were previously awarded and executed in the first award under ICB/NCB,” which was unsatisfactory.
We spoke with a highly placed procurement expert in TCN’s circles. He agreed to speak to Abuja City Journal on the condition of anonymity. “These claims are a violation of the Public Procurement Act, which is intended to ensure justice, competition, and efficiency in the awarding of government contracts. Noncompliance with these regulations may result in severe consequences, jeopardizing the credibility of public institutions and diminishing confidence in the procurement process,” he said.
The investigation further reveals that the awarded contracts may have been inflated, leading to potential financial mismanagement within TCN.
We reached out to TCN’s CEO for comment on these accusations. Following the failure of multiple attempts to reach him by phone, our reporter sent him messages over WhatsApp; however, as of the time this report was filled up, he had not replied. Furthermore, all phone calls to Mrs. Ndidi Mbah the agency’s General Manager (Public Affairs) were unsuccessful. A number of emails sent to the official company mail address were also returned as undelivered.
During one of our trips to the TCN office in Abuja, we witnessed the mounting calls for an independent investigation into the matter, with stakeholders and employees expressing worry about the potential impact of these alleged violations on TCN’s operations. For fear of losing their jobs, many of the workers refused to speak to our reporters on camera.
Violence Erupts Near Wike’s Residence, 3 Students Shot at Lifecamp Secondary School in Abuja
Three students were shot at Lifecamp Government Secondary School in Abuja, just 500 meters away from the residence of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike. The perpetrators, described as “bad boys,” reportedly came armed with guns, turning the school premises into a scene of chaos. A concerned source revealed that such gun violence has sadly become a yearly occurrence, raising serious questions about the security situation in the heart of Abuja. The Lifecamp Government Secondary School is located directly opposite the Lifecamp Police Station, emphasizing the urgency for authorities to address the recurring threat faced by students and residents in the area.
The source expressed frustration, stating, “I don’t know if you can raise awareness about this issue. This shouldn’t be happening in the heart of Abuja by small children, and nobody is doing or saying anything.” The proximity of the incident to prominent figures, including the FCT Minister, adds to the gravity of the situation. As the news unfolds, parents are left devastated, with bloodstains marking another unfortunate chapter in the history of violence at Lifecamp Government Secondary School. The authorities, including the police, are under scrutiny for their response time, highlighting the need for swift and effective measures to ensure the safety of students and residents in the area. The community demands urgent action to break the pattern of violence that seems to grip the school annually.
Despite attempts to reach out for official statements, the spokesperson for the FCT Police Command, Josephine Adeh, remained unresponsive at the time of reporting. The incident underscores the pressing need for a comprehensive and sustained strategy to address security concerns around educational institutions, ensuring that schools remain safe spaces for learning and growth.
Abuja Film Village International Staff Protest Unlawful Termination, Seek FCT Minister’s Intervention
The leader of the Abuja Film Village International (AFVI), Habila Kayit, has called on the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, to intervene in the unlawful termination of appointment of his colleagues which has resulted in a heated protest from staff members of the organization on Wednesday 27, 2023 in Abuja.
The protesting staff members who lamented the unreasonable sack of their colleagues explained that since September 30, 2022, they have not been paid their salaries and allowances, even though they have families and dependants.
They conveyed their dismay of the unlawful termination of the employment of Staff members of Abuja Film Village International Limited by its then Managing Director, Barr Francisca Ibezim, saying they were fully employed by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and had enjoyed every privilege that comes with the employment.
“We were invited on September 30, 2022 through a notice for staff meeting but received the greatest shock of our lives as the entire staff was issued termination letters with no specific reason for their action.
However, we do not enjoy attracting negative publicity to the administration which we are also a part of. As a result, we have followed all administrative channels to seek reinstatement but all to no avail hence the resolve to cry out for help,” Kayit said.
It was gathered that over 5,000 hectares of land were allocated for the project in Kusaki and Yanga Districts of Kuje Area Council for the actualization of the Abuja Film village project from inception, but the project which should provide jobs to millions of people in the creative industry seem to have been abandoned.
Kayit further said they were employed on a full time basis as staff of Abuja Film Village International and some worked for over 15 years.
According to her, when the then Minister of the FCT, Muhammadu Bello, came on-board in 2015, he made frantic efforts to reposition FCTA business holdings including Abuja Film Village for profitability and better service delivery.
The protesting staff thus demanded the immediate reinstatement of their sacked colleagues and appealed for the full payment of their salaries and arrears over the time of the unlawful disengagement, while calling for the immediate investigation of the 400 Million allocated in the 2023 budget for the AFVI by the National Assembly.
FEC Approves N27.5 Trillion 2024 Budget as President Tinubu Prepares Presentation
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has given its nod to the 2024 Appropriation Bill, revealing an aggregate expenditure of N27.5 trillion. The announcement was made by the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, following a FEC meeting chaired by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The approved budget marks an increase of over N1.5 trillion compared to the earlier projection of N26.01 trillion. Minister Bagudu stated that the targeted revenue for the upcoming year is set at N18.32 trillion, which surpasses the revenues of 2023, including those from supplementary budgets. Despite the increased expenditure, the deficit is reported to be lower than that of the previous year.
The Minister highlighted the adjustments made to the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Policy Framework. The exchange rate was revised to N750 to $1, and the benchmark crude oil reference price increased to $77.96, representing a $4 increment from the initial approval.
President Tinubu is set to present the budget to the National Assembly on Wednesday, unveiling the administration’s priorities and financial allocations for key sectors, including health, education, infrastructure, and security.
In a bid to enhance transparency and public engagement, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen, announced plans for a Town Hall meeting on the 2024 Appropriation Act. This innovative approach aims to gather inputs from Nigerians before the budget comes into effect, fostering inclusivity and building trust in the legislative process.
Speaker Tajudeen urged all committees to expedite their considerations, aiming for a two-week timeframe to ensure the swift passage of the budget. Emphasizing the importance of collaboration and teamwork, he outlined the need for committees to operate effectively, engage with the public, and contribute meaningfully to the legislative process.
As President Tinubu prepares to present the budget in person, this marks a crucial moment in Nigeria’s fiscal planning, setting the stage for economic priorities and development initiatives in the coming year. The government’s commitment to transparency and public participation is evident in the planned Town Hall meeting, showcasing a proactive approach to inclusive governance.
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INVESTIGATION: How TCN Boss Sule Abdulaziz Allegedly Awarded Billion-Naira Illegal Procurement Contracts for ‘Tree Cutting’ to Cronies, Phony Companies
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