European investigators have launched a probe into the Kuru to Maiduguri railway project awarded during the Jonathan administration that has remained incomplete while funds for the project said to be paid in full has been spent.
The contract was scheduled to be completed within 10 months. The probe considers it one of the biggest money laundering cases and outright theft of public funds in Nigeria, Newsdiaryonline reported.
According to official documents obtained by the medium, a local company, Lingo Nigeria owned by an Nnewi-born Abuja hotelier, Mr. Linus Ukachukwu, in partnership with an offshore company Strasky Husty and Partners were awarded the contract for which they were said to have been paid $356 million.
It was for the rehabilitation of Lot 3 of the Nigerian Railway Corporation’s Eastern line of Calabar to Maiduguri, and was awarded in November 2011 during ex-president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. after a Federal Executive Council meeting awarded some contracts.
The contract, awarded to the duo after a Federal Executive Council meeting, cost N23,720,359,033.79 and was tagged ”Rehabilitation of the Railway Track Network-Easter Line Contract 7 (km 803 to km 1443Kuru to Maiduguri) awarded to “Messrs Lingo (Nigeria)Limited in association with Strasky Husty and Partners Limited of Czech Republic.”
The sum of $356m was eventually paid in full after mobilisation to the site but the job was reportedly abandoned after the money was received.
During an inspection of Lot 3 (Kuru to Maiduguri) then minister of Transport, Idris Umar had visited Government House in Gombe and he hailed President Jonathan for the railway project.
An official account by the Director of Press and PR in the ministry of Transport at the time, Abiodun Oladunjoye also expressed their findings after the tour this way:
“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’”
However, 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 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% concluded, especially as Government does not owe them any money.”
This implies that the contract sum had been fully paid, even as it was the huge payment to Strasky Husty that triggered a European probe.
Strasky Husty and Partners was found to be 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 number is 04533738.
The online medium reports that the company’s businesses include: 42110-construction of roads and motorways; 42130- construction of bridges and tunnels and 99999-dormant company.
It was inferred from this detail that a dormant European company got a huge contract in Nigeria, although the company has an authorized share capital allotted and fully paid with aggregate nominal value of one hundred Pounds.
The attention of European investigators were aroused following alleged false tax filings, money laundering issues and the prospect that the deal was part of money suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Investigations reportedly found that neither Lingo Nigeria nor Strasky Husty has ever constructed a road nor even a culvert, as both companies neither have an experience in railway construction.
However investigations which are said to have been extended to the Nigerian side of the deal have established that five companies linked to former First Lady Patience Jonathan, namely: AM PM Global Network Limited, Pansy Oil and and Gas Ltd, Flinchey Top Homes, Aribawa Aruera Foundation and Pagmat Oil and Gas Ltd, which a Federal High Court in Lagos froze their multiple accounts 24 December 2016 were all linked as well to Ukachukwu, the hotelier.
Ukachukwu’s Lingo is then said to be behind the failed Kuru-Maiduguri railway contract in partnership with Strasky Husty which European investigators are probing assiduously.
According to the medium, there is further evidence that companies linked to Ukachukwu benefited from more mouth-watering deals during the Jonathan administration.
It was said that on December 6, 2012, he signed and received on behalf of AM–PM Global Network Limited under what has been described as the discredited landswap, the Comprehensive District Development Agreement between the Federal Capital Development Administration and AM-PM Global Network.
Based on the agreement, “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” were
given to AM-PM Global.
Investigators say Ukachukwu is known already to be a signatory of two accounts at Diamond Bank, the current accounts of AM-PM Global Network limited with account number 0026718889 and 0029499987.
He is equally confirmed to have signed and collected the Right of Occupancy (R of O) of Finchley Top Homes from AGIS and runs the accounts of Aribawa Aruera Foundation (account no 1222014221) with Ecobank which had a closing balance of almost N480 million (N479,893,431.01).
The medium was told that money trails have shown that Onyx Hotel Garki, Lingo Estate Abuja, Nzube Estate Abuja, Multi-billion Naira Eagle Aluminium Company Awka and Abuja are all under investigation for being probably all proceeds of money suspected to be linked to alleged crime.
Lingo Nigeria Ltd was reportedly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in June 1992 as a General Merchant company with initial capital of N100,000.00.
While European investigators are making progress in their probe of Strasky, the Nigerian partner and his properties seem to be enjoying some protection as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Department of State Services, DSS, are said not to have done much in the regard.
The report pointed out that no arrests have been made in Nigeria in connection with the scam.