In 2014, there was a recruitment exercise, during which applicants died in a stampede. A Federal High Court in Abuja will tomorrow decide a case instituted against the key players, write London Bureau Chief OLATUNDE KAZEEM and ERIC IKHILAE
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja will decide on Thursday whether Patrick Abba Moro, Drexel Global Tech Limited, Mahmood Ahmadu, Anastasia Daniel-Nwaobia, former Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Interior and Felix Alayebami, former deputy director at the Ministry of Interior, have a case to answer regarding a 2014 scam immigration recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) that caused the death of 15 Nigerian graduates.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecuting the trial, which began in February 2016, claims that former Interior Minister, Abba Moro now a senator from Benue State, fugitive businessman Mahmood Ahmadu and the three others deliberately designed the botched recruitment exercise solely to defraud job-seeking Nigerians.
Interestingly too, while Ahmadu opened bank accounts with Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited to receive monies, he signed the deal on the exercise with the Ministry of Interior with Drexel Global Tech which was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
The EFCC said Moro and others conspired to induce 675,675 Nigerian job applicant seeking employment in NIS to each pay N1000 application fee (totalling N657,657,0000) under false pretence through e-payment for their online recruitment exercise into the NIS on 17th March 2013.
The story began with former NIS Controller General, David Paradang, approaching former President Goodluck Jonathan through the Ministry of Finance requesting that a total of 4,556 officers and men be recruited to shore up the NIS operations. But the former Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, overruled Paradang, saying that there was no money to support that large number. Rather than get the 4,556 staff at once, the minister advised that the number should be spread over three years.
A proposal by Rosbony Ltd to partner on the recruitment followed quickly in 2012 but Abba-Moro and Ahmadu’s company, the unregistered Drexel Global Tech Ltd, hijacked the idea side-lining the NIS comptroller-General.
Not surprisingly, the exercise ended in tragedy as several people died during a stampede as thousands of jobseekers scrambled into the Abuja National Stadium to take part in the exercise. “I was surprised about the recruitment exercise because I was not aware of it,” Paradang told the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The EFCC identified the key brain behind the shambolic exercise as Abba-Moro and Mahmood Ahmadu. The anti-graft agency describes Mahmood Ahmadu as “at large”, and that he made a total of 677m naira (£1.4m; $1.6m) from the bogus recruitment exercise. Ahmadu, a businessman was honoured with the Order of The Niger by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 as the Chief Executive Officer OLS SERVICES.
The EFCC said the accused by-passed all relevant laws, including the Public Procurement Act, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Act 2005 and the Immigration and Prison Board Act to enable them to manipulate the recruitment process to suit their aim.
It alleged that not only did the defendants sidestepped established procedure in awarding a contract for the provision of an online recruitment portal to unregistered Drexel Global Tech, they also failed to advertise the contract as required to exclude eligible companies from applying and to pave the way for their preferred firm, which was not registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The prosecution, led by Aliyu Yusuf, detailed the roles played by the four defendants in the alleged scam and argued that it has sufficiently established a prima facie case against the defendants to warrant being called to defend themselves against the charges.
The prosecution alleged that “the foundation of the fraudulent contract started with an unsolicited proposal from a company known as Rosbony Ltd. This was attested to in the statement of the 1st defendant (Moro), admitted and marked as Exhibit AAFD48 (1-8). According to Yusuf, four firms, including Drexel Global Tech Limited were invited to bid.
“Evidence before the court is that the procurement process was activated by the defendants with utter disregard for the provisions of BPP Act 2007, Immigration and Prison Board Act 2004 and Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Act 2005 in a scheme designed to fraudulently obtain money from innocent applicants.
Moro’s lawyer Akinlolu Kehinde argued that the prosecution failed through the evidence led by its 12 witnesses, to establish a prima facie case against them.
But witnesses called by the EFCC gave blow-by-blow accounts of how the deals were done and the money shared.
Bilikisu Mohammed, a prosecution witness who is a Relationship Manager with Keystone Bank, IBB Way, Maitama, testified as PW6. She revealed to the court how monies received by Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited were transferred to various accounts. “The account (Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited) was opened on 19th August 2013 as a corporate account with two signatories – William Butau and Ahmadu Mahmoud who is the CEO of the company.
“The first transaction in September 2013 was N20, 000 for legal fees. Subsequently, there were two major inflows into the account.
“The first was N462, 370,000 in October 2013. This money was put in a fixed deposit. The second was about N111, 967,200.00 in November 2013.
“From these, there were three major transfers to one Sofiano Ali’s account as follows: N33, 800,000; N33, 700,000 and N33, 700,000.
“The fixed deposit was liquidated sometime in January 2014 and instructions were received to transfer funds into four accounts, Oak Global – N66, 250,000; Africano Global – 4,000,000; Crown Medics – N120, 100,000 and one Chichi Habiba Abba Gana – about N202, 500,000.
“A transfer instruction also came in February 2014 to transfer N28, 500,000 to Mikano,” she said.
In support of the claim, documents including correspondence between the EFCC and Keystone Bank, Account opening packages for Drexel Tech Limited, Mikano, Crown Medics, Sofiano Ali, as well as, documents of various transfer instructions from Drexel Tech Limited to Keystone Bank were tendered by the prosecution and admitted as Exhibits AAFD 35 – 43.
Another witness, Augustine Chukwuma Ugorji, a former Head of Finance, Pay4Me Services Nigeria Limited, an e-commerce company, narrated to the court how Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited engaged Pay4Me Services Nigeria Limited to provide a payment platform for the collection and online management of payment activities through designated banks for the ill-fated recruitment exercise.
According to Ugorji, “The process of Pay4Me is that the applicant goes through the website of the client, in this case, the Ministry of Interior, completes the form and is redirected to the payment platform where he or she is given the option to pay either through their banks or their card.”
He stated further: “Eight banks – Union Bank, United Bank for Africa, Diamond Bank, Zenith Bank, Sterling Bank, EcoBank, Enterprise Bank, and Interswitch – participated.
“Pay4Me has the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc., NIBSS, as a partner. The role of NIBSS was to act as a central switch through which banks do their clearing.
675,675 applicants made their payments through our platform.
“The agreement between Drexel and the Ministry of Interior was for each applicant to pay N1000. The agreement was for Drexel to pay Pay4Me N150 per applicant. From the N150, Pay4Me agreed to pay the bank N70 per applicant, leaving N80 for Pay4Me. The balance of N850 goes to Drexel”.
Giving details of remittances by each of the banks, Ugorji stated that, Zenith Bank remitted N22,425,390.00; Sterling Bank- N38,013,420.00; United Bank for Africa, UBA, – N190,187,416; Diamond Bank – N114,616,260.00; Union Bank – N133,862,010.00; Fidelity Bank – N58,175,670.00; Enterprise Bank – N12,527,100.00; EcoBank – N48,146,870.00 and Card Payments: N10,879,115.00.” He added that two tranches of remittance were made to Drexel through their Keystone Bank account.
Accordingly, six documents including the witness’ statement given, appointment letter from Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited to Pay4Me Services Nigeria Limited, Pay4Me’s CBN license, as well as Master Service Agreements between Pay4Me and participating banks, were also tendered by Yusuf and admitted as exhibits AAFD 29 – 34.
Testifying earlier on May 19, 2017, the PW4, Mustapha Bello, an officer in the Compliance department of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, gave evidence to the effect that, while Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited is duly registered by the Commission, there is no record of Drexel Global Tech Limited – the company to whom the Ministry of Interior awarded the contract for the provision of online enlistment and e-recruitment services.
Before his evidence, Ishaq Yahaya, Director of Compliance at the Bureau of Public Procurement testified that the Ministry contravened some sections of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 by failing to advertise the project and engaging the services of Drexel Global Tech Limited, who had submitted an unsolicited proposal, without the approval of the BPP and without complying with mandatory pre-qualification criteria.
Interestingly, while other co-accused have been admitted on bail, Mahmood Ahmadu has continued to enjoy trade partnership with the Federal Government through another of his company called Online Integrated Solutions (OIS).
He secured a deal for OIS to collect Bank Verification Number (BVN) record of Nigerians based overseas through their biometrics for onward transmission to the Central Bank of Nigeria. Nationals of India were predominantly employed worldwide to handle the data collection, storage and transfer.
OIS, on its website, prides itself as “a specialist Nigerian visa and passport application agency” in partnership with diplomatic missions across the world to “expedite hitch-free travel” to global destinations.
On its LinkedIn profile, OIS said it was established in 2011 as a Nigerian indigenous company and operates in 25 major cities across the world, including Nigeria, China, Lebanon, UAE, Malaysia, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, USA, France, Germany, UK, India, and Canada.
However, its registration details on the Companies House record in the United Kingdom showed that it was incorporated in October 2012 with 75 per cent being controlled by Mahmood Ahmadu. He was also described in the UK Companies House record as owner with significant influence or control, controlling rights of votes and right to appoint and remove directors.
He exercised this right immediately after the shambolic recruitment by shutting three of his UK companies. Many of the companies are believed to be shell companies being coordinated from Jersey Island, a UK dependant island located on Channel Island and regarded as a tax haven and top offshore financial centre.
Ahmadu registered another company in the UK in March 2014 and tweaked the name to appear similar to that which was used in securing the deal for the recruitment exercise. He called it Drexel Tech Global Limited, which was hurriedly shut in August of 2014.
Ahmadu filed for the strike-off one month after the tragedy despite the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs commencing a probe into the exercise. Ahmadu never showed up throughout the committee sitting. Drexel Tech Global was Registered in June 2011 with a share capital of £1 (one-pound sterling) and dissolved in August 2014.
The directors of Drexel Tech Global are; Mr Mahmood Ahmadu, 53, Nigerian of 63 Dennis Osadebey Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja, Nigeria; Ms Theresa Mahoney, 55, (American) of 6 Hitchcock Circle, Simbury, Connecticut, USA, 06070. Drexel Tech Global Company account was filed as dormant in June 2012 and 2013 financial years and then dissolved through voluntary strike-off in August 2014 without single taxation paid to the UK government.
Another of Ahmadu’s companies, Socket Works Ltd and Socket Works Global Ltd which were registered in the UK in March and April 2013, was also shut down soon after.
Socket Works Global Ltd was closed down in Oct 2014 and Socket Works Ltd in Feb 2015 at a time the Nigerian presidential election was originally scheduled.
His other evasive attempt at operating from behind the scene was not glamorous either. Ahmadu replaced himself and another Mrs Maryam Mahmood, 41, believed to be his wife as directors at Online Integrated Solutions Ltd UK with two other people. He resigned from Online Integrated Solutions Ltd on February 2016 shortly after the EFCC’s hunt became public, while Mrs Mahmood left earlier in November 2015.
Ahmadu has, however, kept alive his interest in Gau Limited, which he registered in the UK in Jan 2015 and in A2A International Ltd, which was registered in Jersey, Channels Island in 2012. But his interest is represented in the Jersey registered company by Online Integrated Solutions Ltd.
Ahmadu has been living large. He was presented Asian Voice Award in front of more than 300 top British, Asians and African leaders and VIP in Sheraton Hotel, Park Lane, London in May 2016. This was at a time the EFCC said Ahmadu was hiding in Europe and mulled the idea of using the Interpol and relevant agencies in the UK to track him.