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Controversy trails Immigration e-passport contracts

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 Comptroller -General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede

Comptroller -General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede

By Nuruddeen M. Abdallah, Ismail Mudashir & Joshua Odeyemi (Abuja) & Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Damaturu)

There’s a raging controversy over the e-passport contracts signed by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) with non-security firms which is ripping Nigeria billions of naira.

The deal is generating heat over stakeholders concern that Nigeria’s national security is being jeopardised because the contractors are mostly non-security companies, while others have questionable tendencies.

The Senate last week invited the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdur-rahman Dambazau, as well as four other companies engaged by the NIS in a public private partnership arrangement over the years.

The four firms are: Contec Nigeria Limited, Greater Washington Nigeria Limited, Newwork Solution and Investment Limited and Iris Smart Technologies.

They were contracted for e-passport production, expatriate residence permit and alien card as well as other immigration services, had contractual agreements to perform some revenue generating services on behalf of the NIS.

The firms are to appear before the Senate Adhoc Committee on Alleged Misuse, Under Remittance and Other Fraudulent Activities in the Collection, Remittance and Expenditure of Internally Generated Revenue by Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

E-passport scandal

In 2007, the federal government signed a public private partnership with a Malaysian based firm, Irish Technology Limited (ISTL), “for production and supply of passport booklets and integration of passport offices,” according to official document obtained by Daily Trust on Sunday.

Analysis of the official documents shows that the 10-year contract which expires May, 2017, is about to be renewed despite huge problems of corruption, threat to national security, short change of Nigerians and abuse of due process, that marred the implementation.

Insiders told Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that the though the database and all other infrastructure have been paid for by the government, but IRIS Smart Technology “are still holding unto it, using that to blackmail government into retaining them as contractors.”

An Immigration official close to the deal said “IRIS deliberately refused to train NIS officers in the management of the system. The NIS officers can’t even conduct basic maintenance and repairs.”

This the official said is because the company “has tied the NIS to its apron by signing Maintenance Agreements that has questionable exclusion clauses that gives undue advantages.”

A top security official complained that the attitude of the company is capable of jeopardising the national security, particularly as the country is coming out of Boko Haram insurgency.

IRIS is an agro-allied and ICT firm, not a security printer, the security chief said, adding that: “Several efforts and directives by the federal government for partnership between IRIS and Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) were ignored by the company, who instead sub-contracted the printing to other security printers in Malaysia and Ireland.”

A ministry of internal affairs official said the company is going helter-skelter seeking for renewal of the contracts despite the fact that its key officials are being investigated by Malaysia for corruption.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) arrested IRIS Deputy Managing Director Dato’ Hamdan Bin Mohd Hassan on 19 January, 2017 over alleged abuse of power in the implementation of e-passport facility in the Republic of Guinea.

A day after Hamdan’s arrest, the Board of Directors of IRIS Corporation Berhad (ICB) announced his suspension in a statement.

The statement said: “At the Magistrates Court at Putrajaya today, 20th January 2017, the MACC has obtained a remand order for six days to facilitate their continued investigations.

“Pending the finalisation of the investigations, ICB wishes to announce that Dato’ Hamdan’s executive powers are suspended and his present duties and responsibilities as acting Chief Executive Officer of ICB will be taken over by the current Chief Operating Officer, Mr Choong Choo Hock.”

The IRIS board, however, said that “the remand of Dato’ Hamdan will not have any implications on the validity of the contract between ICB and the government of the Republic of Guinea nor does ICB expect that it will have any implications on the e-passport project.”

Compromising national security

The actions of IRIS has affected national security of the country, according to Immigration security report prepared by Assistant Comptroller of Immigration N.K. Tanko.

The report was titled “Nigeria e-passport infrastructure and Nigeria public key directorate (N-PKD) and border control- submitted by NEFT/Auctorizium.”

The report said Nigeria must insist on “the implementation and domicilisation of the Country Signing Certification Authority (CSCA) in the NIS.”

The report said CSCA as the country’s Anchor of Trust is controlled by IRIS and not the NIS. “Noting that the CSCA is the seal of government of Nigeria and ought to be under its control and not the vendor (IRIS), the report said.

The report also said in the case of border control systems and NKPD, the NIS “has to assert its position in its relationship with Messrs Vlatacom which is a company that is unnecessarily exploiting the service (NIS) and compromising our National Security.”

Extortion of Nigerians

Three other companies: Greater Washington Nigeria Limited, Newwork Solution and Investment Limited and SocketWorks Nigeria Limited are taking away more than 27 percent of passport fees paid by Nigerians, according to investigations.

SocketWorks was one of the company involved in the deadly recruitment exercise that killed some applicants and injured dozen others.

Daily Trust on Sunday findings show that Nigerians seeking to obtain international passports are made to pay N4,000 for unrendered services.

The N4,000 is charged to settle two non-security companies introduced to render some services, receiving N2,000 each from the N15,000 passport fees paid by individual passport applicant.

SocketWorks Nigeria Limited was contracted 10 years ago, to take charge of ensuring that all official passport fees are paid into government coffers but, with the introduction Treasury Single Account (TSA), the company has outlived its usefulness, a top NIS official said.

SocketWorks services are synonymous with the application of the TSA implemented by the present President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration which all ministries, departments and agencies are mandated to operate.

This not withstanding, Daily Trust on Sunday learnt SocketWorks still keeps its contract while the NIS continued the payment of N2,000 to the company per passport applicant.

The Greater Washington also charges every passport applicant N2,000 for the address verification, dispatch of issued passports to individual addresses.

“But, as it is now, the applicants are made to collect their passports at the immigration offices. So, the service is not rendered to anybody but, its still paid for,” the source said.

The source said “the companies are just there to serve as conduit pipe oiling the cabal of some retired principal officers of NIS and some ministers,” another official in the know of the deal said.

Daily Trust on Sunday checks show that the two companies are also using facilities of the NIS, including offices and computers to render their services in states where they are existing, in violation of the PPP arrangement.

Newworks Solution, on the other hand, is collecting non-refundable administration fees for the NIS.

Another security official said the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) voiced its concern that only Nigeria has introduced non-security companies into its passport issuing system.

Senate inquiry

The four firms will appear before the Senate committee on April 6, 2017, according to a statement by the Kayode Odunaro, the media adviser to the chairman of the committee, Senator Olamilekan Adeola.

The statement said the inquiry was informed by widespread speculation that the companies are “withholding a hefty percentage of revenue that would have accrued to the Federal Government.”

Companies reactions

In his reaction, head of government relations of Greater Washington, Usman Kibiya, told Daily Trust that it was true that his company receives N2,000 from each passport applicant for passport delivery.

“The contract we signed with the NIS does not include the delivery of passports to applicants”, he said. “We only verify the address of applicants and build a location database system for the NIS.”

“Also, the notion that we get N2,000 from each applicant for these services is not true. What we get is 45 percent of that sum.”

But contrary to Kibiya’s claim, contract document obtained by Daily Trust on Sunday shows that the company gets 55 percent of the sum collected “for address verification.”

Daily Trust on Sunday sent a questionnaire to SocketWorks to give more insight into its contractual agreement with the NIS but it hasn’t responded as of the time of filing this report.

Several attempts to speak to NIS Public Relations Officer, Assistant Comptroller of Immigration (ACI) James Sunday, was not fruitful.

Our reporter called him severally over the matter but the spokesperson refused to respond to the specific inquiries.

Our reporter sent him a text but he ignored it as well. Even when the reporter visited his office at the NIS headquarters in Abuja, he was told the NIS PRO was attending a meeting at that time.

Days after the visit, the reporter forwarded a text message of the issues that required the spokesperson response, but he refused to respond.

 

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Magu fights for his honour in suit against The Sun

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The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu has told Justice Doris T. Okuwobi of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, that he has never been investigated by the Department of State Services, DSS.

Magu stated this while giving evidence in a N100m suit he filed against the publisher of The Sun newspaper and four others over an alleged defamation.

Joined in the suit are the Editor, Saturday Sun; Fred Itua, James Ojo and Lawrence Enyoghasu.

Magu is seeking compensation for libellous imputations and statements made against him in a story published in the March 25, 2017 edition of The Saturday Sun entitled: “Magu Under Fresh Probe Over 2 Abuja Mansions”.

At today’s proceedings, Magu, who gave evidence in-chief, told the court that the statement of oath written by him through his lawyer, Wahab Shittu, represented his evidence in the proceedings.

Led in evidence by Shittu, Magu told the court that the publication was done deliberately to damage his reputation.

“The publication said I was under probe.

“But no government agency, has probed or investigated me since I came to the EFCC,” he said.

In his further testimony, he told the court that the publication was completely false, adding that “I cannot buy a house in Maitama, even if I have the money because houses there are so expensive.

“I live a modest life. My wife is a civil servant. We have only one house in Karu site, Abuja; and when I retire, I will go back there. The onus is on the defendants to produce the owners of the properties. The publication has done a lot of damage to my reputation and that of my lineage.”

When Magu’s lawyer sought to tender a letter of complaint written on behalf of his client to the publishers of the newspaper, counsel to the defendants, Charles Enweluata, objected to its admissibility on the grounds that it did not carry the legal practitioner’s seal.

He, however, said the “irregularity was curable.”

In his response, Shittu said: “It does not derogate the admissibility of the letter since the witness has identified and confirmed it.

“It is written on my letter head. The contents are relevant to the proceedings and the author of the letter has also confirmed it. He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the objection by the defence counsel and admit the document in evidence.

In her ruling, the Judge ordered the claimant’s counsel to get the seal. “It will be admissible upon the fixing of the seal to the letter”, she ruled.

When the seal was eventually produced, the court admitted the document in evidence.

The claimant also confirmed to the court his statement in paragraph 18 of the said letter, where he mentioned that the Federal Government, through the Office of the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, officially appointed him as the acting Executive Chairman of the EFCC.

The letter dated November 9, 2015 was admitted in evidence as exhibit.

When the counsel to the claimant sought to tender a series of letters of promotion as well as letters of transfers that Magu had received in the course of his career as a police officer, the defence counsel objected to their admissibility on the grounds that they were electronically generated.

Counsel to the claimant, therefore, applied to withdraw the letters in the circumstance, saying, “I will apply to withdraw the documents, which are said to be electronically generated for now, even though there is certification for them.”

Giving further evidence, Magu told the court that the second story by the newspaper entitled” Magu: The Untold Story”, was not intended to correct the damage created by the first report done on him.

“They went to my town and interviewed several people. They wanted to get more things to damage my reputation. But they were disappointed.”

Under cross-examination by counsel to the defendants, Charles Enweluata, Magu admitted that his wife, Fatima, was not a party in the suit but that she was allegedly linked to the properties mentioned.

When asked if he read in the story that he was being investigated by the DSS, he said “Yes, I read the story.

“But there was no name of any agency investigating my wife or me. The paper did not mention DSS.”

Also, when the defence counsel put it to the claimant that the story carried the name of the Department of State Services as the investigating body, Magu said: “The paper did not mention DSS.

“I do not agree that the DSS investigated me or my wife in any manner.”

Consequently, the matter was adjourned till February 28, 2019 for further hearing.

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Eyiboh blasts Akwa Ibom govt, says peace slogan mere farce

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Hon. Eseme Eyiboh

Hon. Eseme Eyiboh


The Campaign spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom state, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh has described the much-celebrated peace slogan by the state government as an illusion.

He added that it was quite deceptive on the part of the state government to claim that all is well in the state even in the midst of glaring security challenges ravaging Akwa Ibom state.

Eyiboh, who is also the Chairman of Cross River Basin Development Authority, disclosed this on Wednesday when he was hosted in a radio programme at the Inspiration FM, Uyo.

According to him, “there’s no peace in the state, as celebrated by the ruling party, PDP. It is farcical of the state government to claim it has brought peace to the state despite obvious security challenges.”

He argued that normalcy and peace have not yet returned to crisis-ridden Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo councils of the state as claimed by the state government.

“As we speak, Ukanafun local government council secretariat is still under lock and key.

“Work at the council secretariat has come to a standstill. Some aggrieved youths went and terrorised staffers of Etim Ekpo local government council some months ago.

“If there is peace, why is Ukanafun local government council being administered from outside the area? Why is Ukanafun High Court seated in Abak? It means a poor person from Ukanafun seeking justice has to go to Abak.

“I know there is no peace globally, but the state government has not shown strong resolve to nail the crisis in the bud.

“The governor should not come to the public to tell the people that there is peace in the state. If there is peace, why was Mfon Udeme, former aide to the governor shot? Why was Nsima Ekere the APC governorship candidate attacked in his house? If there is peace, why do we have this welter of security flashes in the state? The architecture of peace in the state has deteriorated,” he said.

The spokesman, who was enunciating the campaign agenda of Nsima Ekere, the APC governorship candidate in the state on security and social protection, said “I am sure you are aware that in some local government areas in the state, there is no peace. In short, people are not living there. Even when government is coming out with a confession that there is rehabilitation, there is rehabilitation because there was crisis.

“For more than three years, some communities in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas were embroiled in cult-war that metamorphosed into killings, rapes and kidnapping of innocent people as well as closure of many churches, public schools, health institutions and markets.”

Speaking on youths who laid down their arms in the state, Eyiboh said; “Go and see the youths who laid down arms. As the beneficiaries of the programme, they are not enjoying it. Government should show clear direction, responsibility, capacity and willingness in handling the issue instead of dilly-dallying.”

On allegation that the rehabilitation has turned many to merchants, Eyiboh said, “In Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun, you have heard about the Debam cult. The rehabilitation is like the issue of defection. It has been turned to instrument of merchandising – you have merchants of defection and merchants of rehabilitation.”

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2019: CAN denies endorsing candidates

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Rev. Samson Ayokunle President of CAN

Rev. Samson Ayokunle President of CAN


The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), on Thursday said the association did not endorse anyone, but only met with 14 Presidential Candidates in Abuja to speak on their plans for the nation.

The President of CAN, Rev. Samson Ayokunle made the explanation in a statement issued by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant, Media and Communications to the CAN president, in Abuja.

Ayokunle explained that the issue of endorsing anyone for a second term did not form part of discussions during the meeting.

“Our attention has been drawn to a news story published by an online news outfit that has become notorious for publishing fake stories.

“The story says CAN has endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for the second term in office after it met with some 14 presidential candidates in Abuja.

“There was nothing like that, either before, during or after the parley; not even at the tail end of the programme.

“The church cannot take the back seat in this situation because it can only prosper when Nigeria prospers. If the election is not free and fair, then, all Nigerians, including the church, will be in trouble.

“So, we decided to reach out to the presidential candidates to ask them their credentials for aspiring to the highest office in the land.

“Also, to interrogate their plans for all, including the church.

“We also brought them together to speak to their consciences so that they don’t set this nation on fire,” he said.

Ayokunle said that when he was asked for the outcome of the parley, he replied that conclusion would be drawn at the end of the meeting.

Speaking on the Buhari’s decline of assent to the Electoral Act amendment, he said: “the Executive and the National Assembly should put their house together.’’

“Whenever there is this kind of disagreement or a stalemate, the executive and the legislature should come together as partners in progress to mutually find a way forward.

“They can’t afford to play with the future of the country as the 2019 general elections is at hand.

“Everything must be done to ensure that the election is free and fair.”

The cleric appealed to the general public to beware of fabricators of fake news for whatever reasons.

Present at the forum were the former governor of Anambra and Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi, while the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amechi, represented the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Also the former Minister of Education, Mrs Obi Ezekwesili, the Presidential Candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, (ACPN) was at the meeting.

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