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Investigations

Investigation: Police Service Commission used NSA fund to train 500 ghost workers

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Investigators tracking disbursement and spending of the controversial billions of naira of National Security Agency (NSA) fund prior to the last presidential election are now looking the way of the Police Service Commission (PSC), as new documents revealed that the commission was an eleventh-hour beneficiary of what is now known as the Dasukigate.

With only nine days to the 2015 general elections the PSC under the leadership of a former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, having obtained N350 million from the spy agency, made a dash for the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) where it sought approval to train its staff members on monitoring of police conduct during the elections. In the letter with reference no. PSC.1499/VOL.III/138 and dated March 19, 2015 the Police Service Commission requested for the issuance of “No Objection” for it to adopt selective tendering method for the training. The Commission had said that “due to the limited time frame available to which to utilize the funds to the elections, it became impracticable to embark on a competitive bidding exercise”.

Documents seen by SATELLITE TIMES showed that the BPP declined to grant a “No Objection” letter on several grounds, one of which was that the Commission failed to disclose the source and amount it received for the proposed training. A later report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) put the amount received from the NSA at N350 million. The BPP observed that citing of time factor as reason for selective tendering instead of competitive bidding “might have been deliberate given that the Nigeria general election is an every four year event which permits more than ample time to plan, prepare and perform all procurement procedures associated with the elections”.

Arithmetical checks conducted by the Bureau showed that each of the quotations submitted by three different companies handpicked from the selective tendering had figures discrepancies. Documents show that in the quotation of Messrs. Bobec and Associates, selected for Abuja Training Lot 1, the correct arithmetic for the grand total is N96, 525,000.00 (Ninety-Six Million, Five Hundred and Twenty-Five Naira); not N95, 525,000.00 (Ninety-Five Million, Five Hundred and Twenty-Five Naira)as presented by the Commission to the Bureau.

Similarly, arithmetical checks conducted on the quotation of Messrs. Direct Knowledge Consult Limited for the Kano Training Programme Lot 2 showed that the correct total sum of the contract was N110, 570, 000.00 (One Hundred and Ten Million, Five Hundred and Seventy Thousand Naira), not N95,000,000.00 (Ninety-Five Million) as the Commission had indicated.

The same arithmetic error was seen in the quotations of T Zone Communications Ltd selected for the Lagos Training Programme Lot 3. While total contract sum was N83, 970,001.01 (Eighty Three Million, Nine Hundred and Seventy Thousand, One Naira and One Kobo) the figures in the papers submitted by the PSC to BPP was N85, 000, 001.10 (Eighty-Five Million, One Naira, One Kobo).

It was gathered that in the selective tendering exercise, Bobec and Associates with N95, 525,000.00 bid was chosen in preference over two other companies namely New Frontiers Technology (N97,050, 000.00) and Direct Knowledge Consult Limited (N178,132, 500.00). It won the bid “having given the lowest responsive price” according to the Commission.

Messrs. Direct Knowledge Consult Limited which lost out in the Abuja Training Lot 1 bid was however declared the preferred bidder for the Kano Training Lot 2 at N95 million. The other bidders were T Zones Communications Ltd (100 million) and T-One Technology Limited (110 million).

In turn T-Zone Communications Ltd, one of the two companies that lost out in the Kano Training Lot 2 bid got lucky as it emerged winner of the Lagos Training Lot 3 with bid of N85 million. This company was picked over T-One Technology Ltd (N110, 000, 047.50) and Direct Knowledge Consult Limited (N100, 000, 112.10).

The Police Service Commission stated in the contract papers that Bobec and Associates would train 500 headquarters staff in Abuja. Similarly Direct Knowledge Consult Limited would train 200 staff members in Kano while another 200 of its workers would be trained in Lagos by T-Zone Communications Ltd. Polled together the trainees on paper were 900.

Fact-checks however showed that at the time of the election preparations, the total work force of the Police Service Commission was 391. While staff members in Kano was less than ten, the Commission had no office in Lagos where it claimed it would train 200 workers.

Petitions sent to the ICPC and the EFCC by a whistleblower, Mr Aaron Kaase who was a former protocol officer of the Police Service Commission, revealed that the contractors organized “mock trainings” in Nasarawa State instead of in Kano, Lagos and Abuja.

Investigations by the ICPC confirmed that total number of the Commission’s workers in Abuja and Kano was not more than 391. A ICPC letter with reference ICPC/INV/GBP/HOD/352, dated 16th August 2015 and addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Police Service Commission stated that the anti-graft agency “has conducted thorough investigations into the matters raised in the referred petition and found that the Commission budgeted for training of 900 staff and to conduct trainings in Abuja, Lagos and Kano however the entire work force was not more than 391”.

Also findings were that instead of the four days approved for the training in Kano, Direct Knowledge Consult Limited held a two-hour programme inside Northgate Hotels Limited in Maraba, Nasarawa State. Similarly, Bobec and Associates conducted its own election monitoring strategies for about two hours inside Oasis Hotel in Maraba, Nasarawa State.

Earlier the BPP had in its assessment frowned at the profiles of the three selected firms submitted to it as they contained only evidence of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

“Evidence of compliance with other mandatory requirements such as tax, pension and other social security obligations as stipulated by Section 16(6) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 were not forwarded along with this submission” the BPP said in its letter.

The Bureau described the provision of N53 million for consultancy fee for the Abuja training as “rather excessive” just as it reviewed downwards the cost of the Kano training from N110.5 million to N94.8 million. It also condemned as “rather excessive” the provision of N53 million for the Kano training and N52.2 million as consultancy fee for the Lagos training. The BPP in the end gave approval for the trainings but based respectively on revised costs.

Findings from ICPC investigations showed that the Police Service Commission paid Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) to all staff including those in Abuja who participated in the 2-hour training programme in Maraba, near Abuja. DTA and air-ticket allowances were paid to management staff and others who monitored elections in Abuja and nearby places such as Minna and Lokoja which had no airport services.

Against a 2007 circular from the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government Ref. No. 59729/T.1/154 reiterating the non-eligibility for payment of estacode and DTA to personal assistance to political appointees accompanying their principals on local or foreign trips, it was discovered that the Police Service Commission has been paying these allowances to the personal assistants of its Chairman, Mike Okiro.

The circular which was explicit reads: “With the Monitization Policy, salaries of personal assistants are being paid along with the salaries of Honourable Ministers/Ministers of State and other entitled officers because these are staff that are personal to such officers. Government funds should therefore not be spent on the personal assistants when they travel with their principals either locally or abroad. When a political appointee insists that his/her personal accompany him/her on such trips he/she should be prepared to pay the expenses of the personal assistant”.

Among other things the ICPC in its letter to the Permanent Secretary directed that a total balance of N133, 413, 845.99 from the N350 million NSA fund domiciled within FCMB be remitted to the Federal Treasury through the ICPC Recovery Account No. 1012929790 at Zenith Bank Plc.

The anti-graft agency also directed that staff of the Police Service Commission who were paid two-way return ticket and airport taxi to location within FCT and states of close proximity to Abuja amounting to N11.7 million should refund same to the federal treasury through the same ICPC Recovery Account.

However the directive was silent on the fund purportedly expended in training 509 phantom workers in Abuja, Lagos and Kano.

SATELLITE TIMES made several visits to the ICPC to find out if the Commission’s directive to Okiro and other PSC officials to return money to the government treasury has been complied with. ICPC spokesperson, Mrs. Rasheedat Adunni Okoduwa said she would get back after she had done her checks. Several calls made to her afterwards were unreturned.

Investigations

N30 billion ‘MMM’ scam hits GTB, Zenith, Stanbic IBTC and Diamond banks

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A Ponzi scheme operator who in just five months managed to convince about 15,000 Nigerians to part with over N30 billion has absconded with the deposits lodged mostly in five different accounts with the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB). One of the investors in the phoney scheme, Emadu Efe Eva, transferred one billion naira from his/her Diamond Bank account to one of the GTB accounts owned by the Ponzi promoters, Micheno Cooperative, GTB 0346460004. The billion naira transaction was carried out in Lagos on 19th July 2018. The same Emadu Efe Eva made a total of seven investment transactions between 22nd June 2018 and 27th July 2018.

Other commercial banks that housed the Ponzi deposits included Zenith Bank (corporate account no-1015774733), Diamond Bank (account number 0103771684) and Stanbic IBTC Bank (account number 0026336328). The promoter, careful not to be seen as another ‘MMM’ disguised its operations as a Cooperative Society by name ‘MMCS’, Micheno Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society. It operated five bank accounts with Guaranty Trust Bank- 0262809804, 0346460004, 0346460028, 0346460011 and 0346460035.

Coming barely 15 months after the MMM ponzi scheme hit Nigeria like a tidal wave, devastating homes and marriages as it swept away billions of naira in family finances, personal savings and other funds meant for school fees or collected as loans, the newest ‘MMM’ presented itself to the ever gullible populace as Micheno Multi-Purpose Cooperative. Preliminary investigations reveal that Micheno is actually a portmanteau for Michael and Eno, possibly a husband and wife affair.

The Cooperative said its mission was “to create a system that empowers its members through provision of quality, diversified, innovative and market-driven financial and technical services and exceeding members’ expectation”.

Bank documents supplied by Zenith Bank reveal that Micheno’s account with the bank has only two signatories, namely Mr Michael Uno Eke and Ms. Eno Queen Essien. Michael and Eno lent their first names to the Cooperative called Micheno. A joint petition written on behalf of “over 15,000 direct subscribers” states that sometimes in March 2018, the promoters of Micheno Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society obtained registration certificate for the Cooperative from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Registrar of Cooperative Societies. In June 2018, the promoters of the Cooperative put out advertisements inviting “unsuspecting members of the public to register and join the Cooperative. The names of the promoters and founding members of the Cooperatives were given as Michael Eke (President), Mbakara Aya (Vice President), Miss Eno Queen Essien, Miss Wendy Daniels, Efah Egba and Mrs. Rejunor Aya. Others are Mrs. Egan Adat Ben-Koko, Mrs. Ruth Bolu-Atte, Ekimini Archibong, Emem Harry and Barrister Tutu Ekeng.

Investigations revealed that the advert promotions targeting unwitting subscribers were done mainly through the “opening ceremony” held on 16th June 2018 at the Calabar International Conference Centre, billboards mounted in Abuja and Calabar, handbills, comedy/music shows and through referrals from trusted friends and family members. Other subscribers heard about Micheno from colleagues at work.

The official brochure of the MMCS scheme states its aim is to “coordinate entrepreneurs to poll private funds as a source of investment opportunities and credit for members.” The brochure went on to say the Cooperative was to engage in eight fields of investment namely: “collection of savings, real estate, haulage and logistics, agriculture, entertainment and events, oil and gas, multi-level marketing and general marketing of goods & services”.

The over 15,000 subscribers paid N10,000 each to pick what was called membership form. The subscribers were further invited to invest larger funds into the cooperative which will be invested in oil & gas, aviation, real estate and other high-end sectors to attract profit returns of 50-80% in 40 days.

Some of the highest subscribers to the scheme included Essien Raymond Ukpong who also unbelievably transferred a total sum of N360 million from his GTB account to another GTB account owned by Micheno Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd.  Ndifon Ndim-Ejor of Cross River invested N63 million in the scheme.

Ayuk Kakore Egbe of Abuja on 3rd August paid N36 million into another of Micheno’s bank account with GTB by name Micheno Cooperative Scheme Ltd while Wendy Daniel of Cross River deposited N70 million on 30th July 2018. Wendy made 15 additional payments into MMCS accounts between 26th June and 31st July, bringing her total investments in the scheme to N570 million.

Another is Onyi Chijoke of Calabar who on 4th August invested N4 million. Isah Benjamim of Kaduna  on 27th July paid in N19.9 million; Ugochukwu Geraard Okongwu of Calabar paid in N6million on 4th June; Morphy Farms of Cross River paid in N15million on 25th June while Ukpe Emem Nathaniel of Akwa Ibom paid in N11 million on 30th July.

Other subscribers who deposited huge sums into Micheno Cooperative’s bank accounts included

Mr. Abubakar Wakili of Abuja who on 26th June 2018 paid the sum of N8 million into Micheno Cooperative’s GTB account from his own bank, First Bank. Udoh Paul Sunday of Lagos paid in N13 million in three transactions carried out on the 18th, 19th and 20th July 2018, all GTB to GTB transactions.

Odeyeuma Francis of Abuja paid in N9 million on 1st August; Ekpenyong Joseph Okon of Lagos deposited N5 million on 14thJuly; Sunday Chinagorom paid in N10.2 million;

Rubymarsh Energy of Calabar invested N10.2 million; Victor Essien of Uyo paid in N10 million on 9th July; Otobong Udofia  of Uyo invested N7 million on 13th July; Mba Nnenna Esther of Calabar paid in N13 million on 11th July. Oqua Etim Asuquo of Calabar paid in N22.6 million. The payment was in two tranches recorded on 13th and 19th July 2018 while Dorathy Ada Pamou of Calabar deposited from her First Bank account, a total of N26.5 million in seven transactions between 29th June and 26th November 2018. The list is endless.

Endless Wait

Subscribers to the MMCS scheme, led by Adindu M. Ohawwe and Daniel Ojima, said the 40 days given for their investments to mature came and gone but they received no payments. No verifiable explanation was given. In the attempt to trace the Cooperative’s funds, five different registered companies bearing the name Micheno were discovered. Checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), show that they were all registered by Michael Uko Eke as his business enterprises. The companies are Micheno Ventures, Micheno Global Investment Limited, Micheno & More Business Limited, Micheno Oil & Gas Limited and Micheno Group of Companies Limited. While Micheno Ventures with address as 6 Noble Apartment, Parliamentary Road, Calabar, was registered 3rd November 2017, the other four companies were registered the same day, 30th April 2018. The four companies have the same address: 38 Parliamentary Road, Calabar.

It was also discovered in practical terms that all the Cooperative’s accounts were operated by a sole signatory, Uno Michael Eke, with BVN 22178917780. The same Michael Uno Eke has several personal bank accounts which investors to his scheme claimed were used to warehouse funds diverted from the Cooperative’s accounts. He has two accounts with Keystone Bank; one a domiciliary account, the other, a joint savings account with Essien Enobong.

Subscribers to the MMCS scheme decry what they call regulatory lapses of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and poor risk assessments by commercial banks which in this case turn them into “vehicle of fraud to the detriment of unsuspecting members of the public”. In a petition sent to the National Assembly, the investors want the affected commercial banks to tell them “where the funds of the Cooperative were diverted to”.

They also would want to know why no red flag was ever raised on Micheno Cooperative bank accounts. “If the influx of funds did not attract the attention of the apex bank, at least the volumes of monies (over N25 billion) moved out of the Cooperative’s accounts within 2 months should have attracted the attention of the regulator”, they pondered.

In efforts to speak with someone from MMCS, SATELLITE TIMES dialed some telephone numbers found on Micheno’s promotional materials. One of the calls connected. When the receiver was asked if he was Micheal Eke, a male voice hastily replied, “God forbid”. The receiver who was identified through the Truecaller app as MC Mbakara declined to comment on his relationship with Micheno. He excused himself from the phone conversion saying he was busy in the studio doing some recordings.

Another call was to Esther Isek, one of the female models whose photographs and telephone numbers had featured prominently on brochures, handbills and Micheno’s other promotional items. She confirmed being a registered member of the cooperative. Esther said she put her money into the scheme with hopes of making high returns but soon after, it was one story to the other until her investment and those of many others were siphoned. Asked if she knew the whereabouts of Michael Eke, she replied, “The last we heard was that he is in custody.”

When this newspaper contacted Michael on his mobile, it did not appear he was in police net. After his phone rang out for a second time, he switched it off.

(to be continued).

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Investigations

EXCLUSIVE: 10 mystery containers shipped into Nigeria by CMA CGM Delmas

– Police suspect arms and ammunition.

– cargoes cleared without physical examination.

– Warrant of Arrest on CMA CMG Shipping Manager.

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CMA CGM Centaurus
CMA CGM Centaurus used to illustrate the story - 'EXCLUSIVE: 10 mystery containers shipped into Nigeria by CMA CGM Delmas'

The true contents of 10 containers shipped into Nigeria under mysterious circumstances are now subjects of diverse speculations among port workers in Lagos just as a powerful syndicate believed to be behind the shipment has been deploying its influence within the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigeria Customs Service, Ports Terminal Operators and elsewhere to hush the matter. The contents of these containers remain uncertain especially as they were cleared from the port without any physical examinations, using apparently falsified shipping documents to pass through the clearing process.

Documents obtained by SATELLITE TIMES show that the ten containers were shipped into the country by a shipping company called CMA CMG Delmas Nigeria Shipping Ltd with office at 26 Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos. The consignments arrived TinCan Island Port Lagos from Jakarta, Indonesia on board a vessel named Maersk Conakry/CMA-CGM with voyage number 8W100E. The consignee was given as J.I. Ejison International Ltd with address as 109 Upper New Market Road, Onitsha, Anambra State.

Findings by this newspaper show that the 10 containers (5 x 20-Foot containers with Sea Way Bill No. ID20271634 and another 5 x 20-Foot containers with Sea Way Bill No. ID20271677) were manifested as cartons of soap with J.I. Ejison International Ltd as the consignee. At the time of the import, soap was a prominent item on the Import Prohibition List of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Particulars of the 10 mystery containers

The10 mystery containers have the following as their container numbers and seal numbers:

CAXU3378488 D6701293 12500KG

IPXU3358657  D6701484  12500KG

TRLU3957001  D6701386  12500KG

ECMU1295120 D6701340 12500KG

GESU1373150  D6701381  12500KG

ECMU1348472 D668863812500KG

CNCU1529716 D6688637 12500KG

ECMU1542317 D6688581 12500KG

XINU1528288 D6688590 12500KG

FC1U3450531 D6688503 12500KG

On arrival of the 10 containers at the port of destination in Nigeria, the original Manifest and Bills of Lading showing the cargoes as prohibited goods were tampered with and new ones generated in their place. Following these, key shipping documents were altered just as the name of the consignee was changed from J.I. Ejison International Ltd to Fadobra Ventures Ltd with address as 44 Abiola Oluwa Street, Lagos. The description of goods was changed from “cartons of soap” to “Manicure and Pedicure sets”.

Ports insiders told SATELLITE TIMES that these changes, described as “grave” and accommodated by CMA CMG were not consistent with best practices, particularly the Port Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) given that the e-Form M and e-Manifest had already been lodged and once so done cannot be reversed.

Explaining the malpractices, the port insider said: “It is like Ekene Dilichukwu Motors receiving 10 cartons of milk from Company A to be transported from Lagos to Port Harcourt. But after the goods had arrived destination, the waybill is changed to read 10 cartons of nails while the name of the owner is changed from Company Ato Company Z”.

SATELLITE TIMES was able to obtain a copy of the Form M, one of the most important documents used in shipping transactions. The Form M No. 20140069224 used in this controversial transaction was altered in favour of Fadobra Ventures Ltd instead of J.I Ejison International Limited – the original beneficiary.

Form M

Not a few maritime operators told this newspaper that the Form M could only have been forged given that at the inception of any importation, the importer/consignee, in this case J.I Ejison International Limited, must first apply for and obtain Form M only after meeting specified requirements including providing the company’s tax record as contained in its unique Tax Identification Number (TIN). Form M are issued by banks to an import company only after the said company had presented itself to mandatory scrutiny, including stringent Forex guidelines and money laundering prevention measures. As a result, a Form M obtained by one company cannot be transferred to another company just as a Form M obtained by a company for the importation of a specified item cannot be utilised even by the same company to import a different type of item.

SATELLITE TIMES investigations revealed that virtually every document associated with the 10 mystery containers is riddled with discrepancies. The shipping company CMA CMG claims that in swapping both the consignees and the contents of the containers, it acted on instruction from the shipper (Messers. Sea Air & Land Forwarding Ltd)leading to an amendment dated 27th April 2015.  Curiously, other documents show that the amendments to the consignee’s name and contents were carried out by CMA CMG on 18th March 2015. This was 40 days before the purported instructions from the shipper.

Yet another glaring anomaly in the documentation is that while the amended bill of lading describes the 10 containers as containing manicure and pedicure sets, the cargo was eventually released by the shipping company CMA CMG, as the prohibited item, soap. This is clearly captured in CMA CMG’s delivery order issued on 8th May 2015, a copy of which was obtained by this newspaper. This development led dock workers tracking the mystery cargoes to second-guessing the true contents of the 10 containers which they said might neither be soap nor manicure and pedicure sets as alleged.

Botched physical examination

Prince Jide Olowu, a Customs agent familiar with the Nigeria’s current Clearing & Forwarding regime, told SATELLITE TIMES that irrespective of the claims by any importer, the only way to ascertain the true contents of a container is by subjecting it to physical examination.

“I must say that because of corruption, the Customs is very selective when it comes to physical examination, but at least, that was how recent imports containing Tramadol were detected”, Olowu said.

Though the shipping company, CMA CMG’s claims the 10 mystery containers were subjected to 100% physical examination by Customs officials before they were released to the importers, documents available to SATELLITE TIMES show that no physical examinations was carried out.

The 10 containers were supposedly transferred on Saturday 9th May 2015 to Don Climax Bonded Terminal for 100% examination by the Customs and other statutory agencies of government. Shipping documents however show that the 10 containers were released by Customs, CMA CGM Nigeria Shipping Ltd and security agencies earlier days earlier – on/or before 8th May 2015.

Prince Olowu assured it is never a normal practice for cargoes to be released to the consignee (the last stage in the clearing process) before the same cargois transferred to a Bonded Terminal (in this case Don Climax) for 100% physical examination.

Additional evidence showing the 10 containers were never subjected to physical examination before they were released to Fondora Ventures Ltd can be found in documents from the official records of Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT). Whilst CMA CGM claim the 10 containers were transferred on 9th May 2015 to Don Climax Bonded Terminal for 100% examination by Customs and other statutory agencies of government, the containers were still in the custody of TICT as evidenced by receipts of rent payment on the 10 containers to TICT. Receipts show the 10 containers were still attracting rent at TICT even on 9th May 2015 when they were supposedly already transferred to Don Climax Bonded Terminal.

Payment receipt

As tongues began wagging over the 10 mystery containers, the attention of the Zone 2 Monitoring Unit of the Nigeria Police was soon attracted. Statements made by TICT Terminal Manager and other workers to Police investigators at Force Headquarters Alagbon on March 2018 show that the 10 containers were still at TICT at the time they were said to have been transferred to Don Climax Bonded Terminal for 100% physical examination. The Terminal Manager and other TICT staff members had been invited by the Police to say what they knew in connection to the 10 containers.

Warrant of Arrest on CMA CMG Shipping Manager

On 20th April 2017, a Warrant of Arrest was issued by the Igbosere Magistrate Court in respect of CMA CMG Shipping Manager, Mr. Anthony Ukawoko. A copy of the warrant obtained by SATELLITE TIMES shows that police investigators had stated that CMA CMG “conspired to import prohibited goods suspected to be arms and ammunition by Fondora Ventures Ltd, J.I Ejison Int. Ltd, F.N Njoku, Donatus Obele and Don Climax Bonded Terminal and Ventures”.

The Police came to that hypothesis following the serial contradictions in the documentation process for the 10 containers as well as the apparent determination to conceal the true contents of the containers, changing them from soap to manicure and pedicure sets and back to soap which by the evasion of physical examination remains a mystery.

None of the telephone messages sent to the Customs Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joe Attah, were reverted to just as CMA CMG staffers refused to grant entry to SATELLITE TIMES’s reporter who had gone to the Lagos office of the shipping company to obtain official reaction for the story.

Resorting to the services of a courier company, GIG Logistics, SATELLITE TIMES on 28th September 2018 in Abuja sent a two-page media enquiry to the Managing Director of CMA CMG. About three weeks later, the company sent back the same media enquiry to this newspaper without commenting on any of the issues raised.

In November 2018, the same reporter returned to CMA’s office and after two days of attempts, the media enquiry was received and acknowledged by a staffer who claimed the shipping company had no Public Relation Officer.

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Investigations

Exclusive: 44 companies import 500 containers using cloned Form M  

-over N9 billion diverted in tariff fraud

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A photo of Apapa Port in Lagos, Nigeria used to illustrate the story

In what is probably the most brazen display of impunity by powerful syndicates at the Lagos seaport, a total of 44 companies are discovered to have imported about 500 containers into the country using same Form M. Of the 44 companies (see list below) 30 brought in various consignments using Form M with number MF20170010026/ BA No. 21420170005250 which was cloned and recycled 29 times over a period of two years between 2017 and 2018 in a massive and sophisticated serial tariff fraud.

Five of the 44 companies namely Max Holding & Sons Ltd, Auto Creation E-Hub Ltd, Joneble Holding & Sons Ltd, Bossman Holding Ltd and Vintage Nigeria Ltd used another cloned Form M with number MF20170019026/ BA No. 21420170005260 for their shipping transactions while the Form M used by three companies, Garba Murtala Tafida, Ogwuni Rolland Edwin and Pedrona Ltd are so tampered with vital information scrubbed out that this newspaper is unable to read them.

Two companies with business names The Seacorp Nig. Ltd and Flex Nig. Ltd utilised for their transactions one Form M MF2017013894/BA No. 21450034.

The last four companies each quoted Form M numbers in their documents thus: Sonai Shipping Ltd MF20180052740; Cosmos &Sons Ltd MF20170010111; Duncan Maritime Ventures Nig. Ltd MF20170094928 and Emoko Real Properties Nig. Ltd MF20130010026. Curiously, all the four Form Ms have no batch numbers thus making it impossible to determine the name of the bank that issued the Form Ms in the first place and also making it difficult to track the source of funds used by the business owners in the transactions.

Two months ago, in September, SATELLITE TIMES blew the lid on a powerful “Port Cabal” that specialised in using clone Form M documents to perpetrate large scale fraud at the Lagos seaports. The report exposed how the Cabal imported millions of dollars’ worth of luxury vehicles, many of them armoured, into the country using just one Form M. The offensive Form M with number: MF 20170010026 was used in importing a total of 554 luxury vehicles that included one Rolls Royce, 84 Toyota Landcruiser, 41 Toyota Fortuner, 123 Toyota Prado, 46 Lexus 570/460, 140 Toyota Hilux, 32 Toyota Camry, 21 Toyota Coaster, 43 Toyota Hiace, 21 Mitsbushi Pajero and 2 Range Rover, most of them armoured and targeted at high-end market.

Cargo manifest

Cargo manifest

While the September report about 17 companies colluding to use one Form M had left ordinary Nigerians and anti-corruption crusaders in utter disbelief, the story pales into insignificance with the latest discovery of 44 companies pulling off an even bigger fraud without the Colonel Hameed Ali-led leadership of the Nigerian Customs Service being any wiser. Intriguingly, it was the same Form M MF 20170010026 used by the 17 companies to bring in 554 exotic cars that was also utilized by a new group of 27 companies to import more cargoes, bringing the number to 44 consignees.

Form M explained

Form M is the most important item in the documentation process put in place by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), to monitor goods imported into the country as well as to enable collection of import duties where applicable.

Any person intending to import physical goods into Nigeria must initiate the importation by processing a Form M through an authorised dealer (licensed bank). Alongside the Form M, a host of other documentation will be presented to the bank. Where approved, the Form M serves as authority to the bank to open letters of credit for foreign exchange transactions on behalf of the importer.

This form has a unique number which must be quoted/written on all the shipping documents; although there are exemptions such as Diplomatic cargos (of reasonable quantity), personal effects, goods shipped in by government agencies or goods shipped into Free Trade Zones in Nigeria such as the Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ).

Form M is the first official document needed to initiate shipment to NigeriaThe life span of a Form M is 6 months (for general merchandise) and one year (for plant and machinery), after which an extension of 6 months (for general merchandise) and one year (for plant and machinery).

 

Cargo manifest

Cargo manifest

A Form M is usually issued for a particular supply contract (between the oversea manufacturer and the Nigerian importer) and allows for part shipments within the validity period. For large project such as stadium construction, a Bulk Form M can be issued, which allows continuous part shipments throughout the validity of the Form M.

Form M is a form of licence. Approval of a Form M depends, among other things, on the forex okayed for the importer by the CBN for a particular import. To obtain Form M, the importer must present his Tax Identification Number (TIN). In fact, the TIN is now key-username to log into the electronic platform to process this all-important document. Form M is not transferable from one importer to another. And a Form M approved for the import of a particular item cannot be used even by the same importer to bring in a different item.

An industry stakeholder (names withheld) gave “a rough estimate” of the values of the 500 containers imported by the 44 companies as “over N100 billion”. It will take the expertise of forensic financial investigators to arrive at the true value of the imports. However, SATELLITE TIMES was told that “because all the imports were luxury goods, they attract 20% duty of the true value, 50% levy and 5% VAT. Indeed, the cloning and manipulations of Form M and allied shipping documents are aimed at escaping payment of accurate levies and tariffs. The industry stakeholder added that the Federal government must have “lost nothing less than N9 billion to this batch alone of cloned Form M imports”.

Official reactions were sought by this newspaper at the headquarters of the Nigerian Customs Service in Abuja. Clearly-worded text messages sent to the mobile number of the Service PRO, Mr. Joe Attah, was not responded to at press time.

List of the 44 companies

1. Five Stax Group Ltd

2. Emy Cargo & Shipping Services

3. Volta MP Equipment Nig. Ltd

4. Vintage Nig. Ltd.

5. Suplus Nig. Ltd

6. Brasslet Nig. Ltd.

7. Sonnex Nig. Ltd.

8. Zako Bag Allied Nig. Ltd.

9. Kaslak Nig. Ltd.

10.Zeb Holding Ltd.

11.Cosmos & Sons Nig. Ltd.

12. Joneble Holding & Sons Nig. Ltd.

13. Amaju & Sons Nig. Ltd.

14. Zinktex Nig. Ltd.

15. Dabik Holding & Sons Nig. Ltd.

!6. Landhoast Ltd.

17. Ogwuni Rolland Edwin

18. Ruffo Nig. Ltd.

19. Marko Nig. Ltd.

20. Sengenmenge Nig. Ltd.

21. Offor and Sons Nig. Ltd.

22. Lext Vin Nig. Ltd.

23. Modul Oil and Gas Ltd

24. Ducan Maritime Ventures Nig. Ltd.

25. Carmen Ltd.

26. Garba Murtala Tafida

27. Auto Creation E-Hub Ltd.

28.  Emoko Real Properties Nig. Ltd.

29.  Osland Ltd.

30.  Brimax Still Nig. Ltd.

31. Akuabia Prince Afamefuna

32. Max Holding & Sons Ltd,

33.Auto Creation E-Hub Ltd,

34.Joneble Holding & Sons Ltd,

35.Bossman Holding Ltd

36. Vintage Nigeria Ltd

37. Garba Murtala Tafida,

38. Ogwuni Rolland Edwin and

39. Pedrona Ltd

40. The Seacorp Nig. Ltd

41. Flex Nig. Ltd

42. Sonai Shipping Ltd

43. Cosmos &Sons Ltd

44. Duncan Maritime Ventures Nig. Ltd

 

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