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SCANDAL: Buhari Govt Awards Multi-Billion Cargo-Tracking Contract To A Bubble Company Despite Court Injunction

The Ministry of Transport on Wednesday acted beyond the scope of its competence, shunned due process and a restraining court order as it awarded the multi-billion Naira Cargo-Tracking contract to a Belgium-based “bubble company”, Antaser, allegedly not registered in Nigeria.

The contract was awarded to Antaser, alongside four Nigerian companies, suspected to be owned by the cabals in government, who pushed for the award, in contravention of a court injunction, legal advice of the Attorney-General of the Federation, and against an executive order of President Muhammadu Buhari, who had on May 10th, 2021 directed the Federal Ministry of Finance, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources to commence the immediate implementation of the said Advanced Cargo Declaration (ACD)/Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), which had lingered since 2011.

In pursuance of this presidential directive, the two ministries jointly requested the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to issue a “No Objection” certificate in order for them to proceed with the award of the single-source contract to one Donnington Nigeria Limited, in view of the national security issues involved.

Documents seen by CHECKPOINTCHARLEY show that the BPP responded that the Federal Ministry of Transport, then under Rotimi Amaechi, had also made a similar request for “No Objection” certificate on the same services, even when what was been sought did not fall within the purview of that ministry.

In any case, to avoid possible “duplication,” the BPP advised the Finance and Petroluem ministries to request legal clarification on the issue from the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Following the advice, the Petroleum Ministry on January 7th, 2022, formally sent a letter to the Federal Ministry of Justice, requesting clarification and validation of the Presidential Executive Order as well as the mandate for the ministry of petroleum.

The Ministry of Justice promptly responded on January 11th, 2022, with a clarification that “only the Federal Ministry of Petroleum has the mandate to implement Crude Oil Services.” And that the Federal Ministry of Finance has the mandate for Container Cargo Tracking. In the letter seen by CHECKPOINTCHARLEY, signed by Abubakar Malami, the honourable minister further advised the BPP to “proceed in accordance with the request” from the two ministries.

With the coast clear, the Petroleum and Finance ministries jointly and separately submitted a request to BPP to be granted a certificate of no objection to retain the services of Messr. Donnington Nig and her technical partner Vortexa UK.

On 1st March 2022, BPP replied to the request for no objection and raised a few observations from the submission by the Petroluem ministry, requesting for additional documentation from Donnington Nigeria Limited. It is gathered that the additional documents demanded were sent to BPP on the 21st March 2022.

“But in spite of the earlier clarification and validation by the Attorney-General, the BPP, obviously acting the script of the cabal members interested in the contract, proceeded to solicit further clarification from the presidency,” a source in the Petroleum ministry said.

“The same people have now hoodwinked the president to give the Transport Ministry the green-light to award such a sensitive security contract to Antaser, notwithstanding the fact that there is a court injunction and not minding the fact that this unknown company, is not registered in Nigeria and will not pay a dime as tax to the Nigerian govt.

“It is doubtful if they will pay taxes anywhere in the world for the monies they make out of Nigeria. They were previously engaged with TPMS – Transport and Port Management System Ltd illegally, and they collected monies from unsuspecting companies for crude oil pre-shipment inspection without been so engaged by the Nigerian government.”

A google-search for the company, Antaser showed it is a company registered in Antwerp, Belgium.

The source added, “I can tell you that Mr. President is not even aware that his 10th May order and the ongoing process has been truncated.”

Documents seen indictae that the Chief of Staff to the president, Ibrahim Gambari, has consistently signed the approvals on behalf of the president.

So did he play any role in truncating the process in favour of an unknown Belgium company, without regard to the national security implications?

Former Transport minister, Amaechi, had while in office accused Prof Gambari of meddlesomeness in his ministries due to “personal interest.”

However, recall that following a suit in Sept. 2022 by Donnington, through its lawyer, Dr. Reuben Atabo (SAN), the Federal High Court Abuja had issued an injunction, for the maintenance of the status-quo, pending the determination of the substantive matter.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transportation were listed as defendants in the matter.

Donnington Ltd had approached the court for protection and remedies when it sensed foul-play by some government officials.

The plaintiffs claimed in the case that, based on President Buhari’s approval of its proposal, it had committed funds to procure equipment, engage staff and foreign partners, but the defendants were planning to now substitute it with other companies.

Efforts to get the Ministry of Transport to comment on this scandal had not been fruitful as at the time of filing this report.

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