The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and its Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega are currently enmeshed in a fresh scandal over alleged sharp practices in the procurement process of the ballot boxes used during the 2011 general elections.
The allegation against them was contained in a counter-affidavit that was deposed before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court by an indigenous company, Bedding Holdings Ltd, which equally fingered the erstwhile INEC chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu in the alleged fraud.
Specifically, the company, in an affidavit that was deposed by its chairman, Chief Sylvester Odigie, told the court that it has garnered sufficient evidence to prove that Jega allegedly sustained the fraudulent activities of his predecessor, Iwu, in the procurement process of additional 150,000 transparent ballot boxes used for the 2011 polls.
It further alleged that companies with insufficient share capital were used for selective tender and bidding for the procurement of the multi-billion naira ballot boxes procurement contract.
Besides, the INEC boss was accused of fraudulently misrepresenting facts to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, the approving authority for the contract in order to favour a preferred company, EMCHAI Limited, for the contract.
The deponent alleged that EMCHAI, which was awarded the ballot boxes procurement contract, in addition to using fake patent for bidding, had insufficient share capital of 10,000 with which it bided for the contract.
An exhibit attached to the motion filed by EMCHAI before the court showed that the company was rendering annual returns in paltry sum of between N1,000 and a maximum of N3, 000 between year 1999 to 2009 even after securing N5.528 billion for the 300,000 units of boxes used for the 2007 general elections and N1.950 billion for the 150,000 additional units of boxes for the 2011 general elections.
Likewise, another company allegedly used in selective bidding for the transparent ballot boxes procurement process by INEC under Jega was ANOWAT Project and Resources Ltd.
ANOWAT was said to have been registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, on September 22, 2010 barely two months to the November 15, 2010, a date Jega allegedly raised memo to the FEC in respect of the said contract.
According to the company, “INEC under the new administration of the 7th Defendant (Jega) sustained the fraudulent and criminal activities of the 1st, 2nd and 6th Defendants under the leadership of Prof. Maurice Iwu.
“Jega, on behalf and in favour of the EMCHAI applied and caused a memo – EC (2010) 219 COPY NO. 8 dated 15th November, 2010 and titled: Federal Executive Council – Contract For The Supply Of Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes For The Conduct Of The 2011 General Elections –Memorandum by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which inter alia stated at paragraph 5 of the said memo that:
“While noting that the company that supplied the boxes in 2006, EMCHAI Limited has the patent to its design and specifications; and in order also to maintain standardization, the Commission decided to adopt the direct Procurement method in the award of the contract for the Transparent Collapsible Ballot Boxes as provided in section 42 (1) (a) (b) and (c) of the Public Procurement Act 2007” (Underlining supplied for emphasis)
“The blatant falsehood as stated in the preceding paragraph enabled EMCHAI, INEC and Jega to successfully seek and obtain the ratification of the Federal Executive Council, using the guided tools and instrumentality of officialdom, for the award of the contract for the supply of yet a new 150,000 units of the Plaintiff’s patented products at a unit cost of N13, 000.00 making the total contract sum of N1, 950,000,000.00 without the prior consent, license and authority of the Plaintiff; which gave rise to the action leading to the judgment under reference.
“To this effect, the guided tools and instrumentality of officialdom has once again, been used to deceive the highest ruling body in this Nation-Nigeria to infringe on the Plaintiff’s patented products.”
More so, the deponent alleged that during the tenure of the erstwhile INEC Chairman, Iwu, there were monumental irregularities and unprecedented fraud in the tender and procurement processes perpetrated by the EMCAI and INEC.
EMCHAI was said to have procured the collapsible Transparent Ballot Box from the far-East at a unit cost of 7. 89 pounds in 2006, when the exchange rate of Naira to the pound was about N230.
He argued that by implication, the deal translated to a mere N1, 815.85k per unit of the product which was awarded then at N18, 400 per unit by INEC to EMCHAI; which means the actual cost of the box for 300,000 units amounted to a mere N554 million of the total contract sum of N5.520 billion collected from the federal government.
The company further told the court that despite the astronomical gains made by EMCHAI, Iwu yet applied for exemption/waiver of import duties/other taxes and pre-shipment inspection in respect of the ballot boxes and was approved by the Presidency.
Meantime, no date has been fixed for hearing of the substantive case owing to the fact that the high court is currently on vacation.