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Ibikunle Amosun

03.12.2023 Featured How Orelope Adefulire’s OSSAP-SDGs Paid N47.5m for Shady Contract on Amosun’s Request

Published 3rd Dec, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu

On Sunday, February 26, 2023, barely 24 hours after the country’s presidential election, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs (OSSAP-SDGs) paid N47,511,621.63 to Tru 3 Nigeria Limited. This payment was for the construction of one unit of six blocks of classrooms at the central senatorial district of Ogun State.

As is the case with government construction contracts, this should have been an initial payment for starting the job. But this was a one-time payment for a contract that was never publicised, and for which the contractor was never mobilised.

The biggest takeaway, however, is in the wording of the contract. In fine print, the contract payment description reads: “Being payment for the construction of one number of six classroom blocks at central senatorial district of Ogun State.”

Contract payment description
Contract payment description

To the naked eye, it may not look like much, but when one questions the contract’s specificity or lack thereof, one may start to wonder what taxpayer’s money really went into. Where? In what school? At what specific location?

Did the OSSAP-SDGs perform any studies or identify any pressing needs to arrive at a conclusion that this block of classrooms should be built anywhere in any of Abeokuta North, Abeokuta South, Ewekoro, Ifo, Obafemi Owode or Odeda LGAs in the senatorial district?

One may even conclude that if a contractor did indeed build blocks of classrooms in any one of the six LGAs in this senatorial district, then all is well that ends well, but we found otherwise.

BETWEEN THE OSSAP-SDGS, TRU 3 AND AMOSUN

The OSSAP-SDGs has been led by Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire since March 7, 2016, and its purpose is to help Nigeria achieve the 17 sustainable development goals set by the United Nations (UN).

One of these goals is quality primary education, and the office regularly awards contracts for the construction of classroom blocks in several parts of the country to meet this goal.

However, since Orelope-Adefulire began advising the president, there have been questionable activities rocking the office.

In 2019, Premium Times reported how the legislature inflated the office’s budget by over N5 billion.

“The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs (OSSAP–MDGs), an office under the presidency, had an initial proposal of N34,006,614,” the report read. “However, in the new budget, the office has N5.106 billion. That’s a difference of N5.072 billion. The office will now execute a lot of frivolous projects in which lawmakers will nominate contractors, take kickbacks or pocket project funds without execution.

“The breakdown of what the over N5 billion MDG office allocation will be used for ranges from one capacity building and empowerment programme to supply of implements and tools, to the construction of one infrastructure or the other.”

So, prior to 2015, the UN had Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), which was why this report referred to the OSSAP-SDGs as OSSAP-MDGs. They became sustainable development goals in 2015, and the target is to achieve them by 2030.

The report and another one detailed how the office budgeted for vague projects with its inflated budget.

FIJ has also reported how the same office paid for vague projects and hired the services of a restaurant to execute them. Those reports can be found here and here.

OSSAP-SDGs paid N47.5 million to Tru 3 Nigeria Limited for vague blocks of classrooms in a senatorial district represented in the Senate by Ibikunle Amosun at the time. We also know that in 2019, it was revealed that this office was issuing vague contracts and the Senate was helping to inflate the budget. What was Tru 3’s role in this scheme?

INSIDE TRU 3

Tru 3 Nigeria Limited on CAC
Tru 3 Nigeria Limited on CAC

Upon learning of the payment to Tru 3 Nigeria Limited, FIJ went looking for the company’s status and owners, and objects for which the company was set up.

We first found that the company was inactive on the Corporate Affairs Commission’s (CAC) website, suggesting that the owners were yet to file reports with the commission.

This company was registered on June 14, 2009, and has been operational for 14 years. If it was set up to undertake construction projects, it would have the experience to do so for the government if it had been doing so in the past.

When we went looking for its details, however, we found very little. Four directors — Eyitayo Aina, Omolara Aina, Oluwatoyosi Aina and Eniayo Aina — were linked to the company, and it was listed as a private company.

The company’s mermat, which was supposed to contain objects for which it was set up, and more details on its directors, was blank.

FIJ went looking for every other time the federal government paid the company for contracts, and we found something.

TRU 3’s UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP WITH OSSAP-SDGs

All contracts FG ever paid Tru 3 for
All contracts FG ever paid Tru 3 for

Since October 27, 2021, Tru 3 has received payments for five contracts executed for the government. All five contracts were awarded by the same entity and paid for by that same entity.

On the BudgIT Govspend platform, FIJ found that the OSSAP-SDGs was the only federal government entity patronising the company and paying it for contracts.

These payments have amounted to a total of N586,257,759 paid between October 2021 and February 2023.

Again, why does it matter if the company is executing the contracts? Well, these payments began two years after the report on how lawmakers were inflating the office’s budget for vague constituency contracts.

If that does not jump out, on December 2, 2021, the office paid N166,270,424.12 to Tru 3 Nigeria Limited to provide and install theatre equipment to a 100-bed hospital in Oyo State, and on March 21, 2022, the office paid the same amount to the company to do the same in an 80-bed hospital in Irabiji, Osun State.

Despite having different capacities and being in different cities, the fees remained the same to the very last kobo. These contracts would matter in the latter part of this report.

We searched for the owners of Tru 3 without much luck, so we wrote to the OSSAP-SDGs. Musa Bagana popped up again.

PAID FOR BY TAXPAYERS, BRANDED BY AMOSUN

Signpost at construction site
Signpost at construction site

FIJ texted Desmond Utomwen, media aide to Orelope-Adefulire, to get details of the contract’s status, but before he responded, Musa Bagana sent pictures of the project to FIJ.

FIJ had documented how Bagana was involved in the illegal award of building contracts to Enseno Global Ventures, an Abuja-based restaurant, and how he tried to bribe stories down.

Bagana sent FIJ the image above. It was captured on December 30, 2022, two months before the company was paid, and it had Amosun’s name on a signpost as facilitator for a project paid for with federal government funds.

The project was executed at Comprehensive High School, Oke Aro, Agbado, Ogun State.

At about the time this project was completed, Amosun was going round the state donating grinding machines, sewing machines, computers, generating sets and mini buses to supporters.

The lawmaker was not seeking reelection, but was vocal about not wanting Dapo Abiodun, the state governor, to win a reelection bid.

But, if the company executed the vague contract, why should it matter?

OSSAP-SDG’s ANTECEDENT WITH VAGUE CONTRACTS

Remember we pointed out that the OSSAP-SDGs paid Tru 3 N166,270,424.12 twice to furnish two different hospitals in Osun and Oyo states

The office paid the company for the Osun hospital installations on March 26, 2022, and commissioned the building on June 29 of the same year, but one year after, findings revealed that the hospital was locked and left to rot.

According to a report, “The projects have been completed but are, curiously, currently locked up and left to rot away.”

Abandoned 80-bed hospital in Irabiji, Osun State
Abandoned 80-bed hospital in Irabiji, Osun State. Credit: ICIR

After paying to have the hospital built, and paying Tru 3 to furnish it, the OSSAP-SDGs just abandoned it.

According to the report, Olawale Rasheed, spokesperson of the Osun State Governor, said the past administration failed to do proper handover of the Transit Home to the new government.

“The previous administration did not properly hand over the Transit Home to us. Our team only took possession last month. Inspection was conducted by three commissioners and the Special Adviser on SDGs. Though it is still ongoing, the team is taking inventory of equipment at the complex, and it was noticed that the skill acquisition centre is well equipped. The equipment are not in bad shape, though they have been locked up for a long time,” he said.

When the dust had settled on the glamour of commissioning the project, the OSSAP-SDGs office left the building and equipment to rot while residents battled with health challenges.

The report also captured how the roof of another hospital was blown off and staff had to repair it by themselves as the contractor went quiet.

This proved the OSSAP-SDGs office was involved in poor procurement processes, doing the bidding of lawmakers and not following up on approved projects.

REACTIONS

In December 2019, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) released a report detailing how Nigerian federal lawmakers, in connivance with executing agencies, had perfected fraudulent means of pocketing billions of naira under the guise of constituency projects.

The ICPC condemned insertion of vague projects like the one Amosun’s name was on and said they were difficult to track.

“These Capacity Building and Empowerment projects have become a convenient conduit for embezzling public funds by the sponsoring legislators and the executing agency as they are difficult to track and verify due to their soft nature,” the report, which was signed by Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman, ICPC, read.

On November 27, 2023, Network for the Actualization of Social Growth and Viable Development (NEFGAD), a public advocacy group, claimed that over 70 percent of public procurement deals were done in bedrooms.

When FIJ called Utomwen, he told us the procurement process followed due process and it was normal for lawmakers to attract projects to their constituency.

We called and texted Amosun’s known phone number, but he did not respond.

This story is published under the GovSpend Media Fellowship, supported by BudgIT, ICIR and MacArthur Foundation

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Published 3rd Dec, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu

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