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Nigeria fails to follow up on European corruption investigation

It has emerged that an undisclosed European company secured a $356 million contract for the rehabilitation of Lot 3 of the Nigerian Railway Corporation’s Eastern line from Calabar to Maiduguri in November 2011. The contract was said to have been awarded during the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan by the Federal Executive Council.

According to a report, by a Nigerian news portal, Newsdiaryonline, a local company, Lingo Nigeria owned by a Nnewi-born Abuja hotelier, Linus Ukachukwu, in partnership with an offshore company Strasky Husty and Partners was awarded the contracts. Strasky Husty and Partners is a private company incorporated on 12 September 2002, with registered office address at 9 Station Parade, Uxbridge Road, Ealing Common, London W5 3LD. The company registration number is 04533738.

The contract, which has a cost implication of ₦23,720,359,033.79 came under the project description; ”Rehabilitation of the Railway Track Network-Easter Line Contract 7 (KM 803 to KM 1443 – Kuru to Maiduguri) and the contractor was listed as “Messrs Lingo (Nigeria) Limited in association with Strasky Husty and Partners Limited of the Czech Republic.”

The contract completion period for Lot 3, being the Kuru to Maiduguri section of the railway project was projected to be 10 months, but the contract, which is now the subject of a probe by European investigators, which sees it as one of the biggest cases of public money laundering in Nigeria.

During an inspection tour of the project by the then transport minister, Idris Umar, who visited Government House in Gombe, he gushed about the project and the then President’s role in facilitating it.

An official account by the Press and PR director in the transport ministry at the time, Abiodun Oladunjoye read in part, “The excitement of Government House was however dampened by what the Transport Minister saw on the field. While inspecting the Bauchi-Gombe-Bajoga (part of the Lot3 handled by Lingo Nigeria Limited ), the Minister expressed disappointment at the level of work done and did not hide his feelings by saying ‘this is not acceptable, not good at all’”

According to the report, “Project Manager of Lingo, Architect Jerry Nweke, blamed the slow level of work on security challenges which forced some of the expatriate staff to withdraw, coupled with the late arrival of some of the imported key components of the project.

“He, however, assured the Minister that the end of May, the job would have been 60 percent concluded, especially as Government does not owe them any money.”

The online medium reports said the company’s natures of business includes: “42110-construction of roads and motorways”; “42130- construction of bridges and tunnels” and perhaps, most curiously, “99999-dormant company.”

Checks seem to suggest that neither Lingo Nigeria nor Strasky Husty has ever constructed a road or even a culvert, as both companies are not known to have any experience in railway construction.

Similarly, on the Nigerian side of the deal, five companies known to be linked to former First Lady Patience Jonathan – AM PM Global Network Limited, Pansy Oil and and Gas Ltd, Flinchey Top Homes, Aribawa Aruera Foundation and Pagmat Oil and Gas Ltd – all subjects of a December 2016 Federal High Court freeze, were all linked as well to Ukachukwu, the hotelier.

The report further alleges that there is evidence that confirms companies linked to Ukachukwu benefited from more mouth-watering deals during the Jonathan administration. Thus, on December 6, 2012, Ukachukwu signed and received on behalf of AM–PM Global Network Limited in what has been described as “a discredited land swap,” the Comprehensive District Development Agreement between the Federal Capital Development Administration and AM-PM Global Network.

The agreement reportedly has it that “all land measuring approximately 2,895,100 sq m (two million, eight hundred and ninety-five thousand, one hundred square meters) in Burum West “B” district within Phase IV of Abuja, Federal Capital City” be given to AM-PM Global. Furthermore, Ukachukwu is a known signatory of two Diamond Bank accounts, the current accounts of AM-PM Global Network Limited.

He is equally confirmed to have signed and collected the Right of Occupancy of Finchley Top Homes from AGIS and runs the accounts of Aribawa Aruera Foundation with Ecobank which had a closing balance of N479,893,431.01 (four hundred and seventy-nine million, eight hundred and ninety thousand, four hundred and thirty-one naira, zero one kobo).

Also under investigation are money trails which lead to Onyx Hotel, Garki; Lingo Estate, Abuja; Nzube Estate, Abuja; the Naira Eagle Aluminium Company, Awka, which is said to be valued in the billions of naira and its Abuja office.

Lingo Nigeria, the original beneficiaries of the railway contract is a registered company with the Corporate Affairs Commission, incorporated in June 1992 as a general merchant company with an initial capital of ₦100,000.00 (One hundred thousand Naira).

While European investigators are making progress in their probe of Strasky, their Nigerian partner and his properties appear to be enjoying some state protection as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Department of State Services, DSS, are reportedly said not to have made any arrests in Nigeria in connection with the case which has caused so much outrage among European investigators.

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