$311m Abacha loot: How bid process for consultant ended in crisis –Investigation

January 16, 2021
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There are indications that the crisis rocking the process for the hiring of a consultant to monitor the spending of the $311.8m Abacha loot may have been caused by the circumvention of due process and transparency during the bid exercise.

Investigations by PUNCH revealed that the selection of the civil society group that came fourth by the Ministry of Justice for the juicy contract ahead of three others made the PPP Advisories Consortium challenge the result in court.

Already, a federal high court in Abuja has restrained the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, from appointing a consultant to oversee the spending of the Abacha loot.

Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered all parties in the suit to maintain the status quo pending the hearing of the motion on notice filed by PPP Advisories Consortium. He has adjourned the case till January 21 for hearing the motion on notice.

Under the trilateral agreement signed on February 3, 2020, the US and Jersey agreed to transfer 100 per cent of the net forfeited assets to Nigeria to support three critical infrastructure projects that were previously authorised by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the National Assembly.

Specifically, the laundered funds under the agreement were to finance the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano Road.

The agreement also includes key measures to ensure the transparency and accountability, including administration of the funds and projects by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, financial review by an independent auditor, and monitoring by an independent civil society organisation with expertise in engineering and other areas.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that out of the 18 CSOs that bid to monitor the spending of the $311.8m, only four were found to have the requisite technical expertise.

They are the Anti-Corruption and Research-based Data Initiative which scored 94; International Business Leaders Forum, United Kingdom (89); PPP Consortium (88) and CLEEN Foundation (81).

On the financial proposal, the PPP Consortium had the lowest offer and came first with N289m bid, followed by ARDI with N339m, IBLF UK with N634m while CLEEN Foundation which proposed N742m came fourth.

Sources said that the US Embassy had pushed for the appointment of CLEEN Foundation even though it came fourth in the bid exercise.

The organisation was said to have the confidence of the American Mission having worked with them on some projects.

It was gathered that the Ministry of Justice officials were being careful not to offend the sensibilities of the US government to avoid frustrating the repatriation of more loots in the future.

This, it was gathered led to the appointment of CLEEN Foundation despite its score.

A source stated, “The information we heard was that the CLEEN Foundation was advised to adjust its financial bid downward to make it suitable for consideration for appointment. Based on this, one of the shortlisted CSOs petitioned the AGF stating that they are the most qualified and if they don’t win the bid, it should go to the second-best bid which is ARDI.”

There had been anxiety over the delay in announcing the winner of the bid after it took the justice ministry over five months to disclose the outcome of the exercise.

The US embassy had in its reaction to speculations that it was insisting on the selection of CLEEN Foundation directed all inquiries to the ministry of justice.

Commenting on the legal challenge by PPP Consortium on Friday, the Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Dr Benson Olugbuo, said his organisation was not a party to the suit.

“It was directed at the ministry of justice, so we wait and see. I think the process was transparent. For us to react, we have to see it in writing since our name has not been mentioned as a party to the suit,” he stated.

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