Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Revealed: INEC's vendors! What really went wrong...

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Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman

The identities of the six firms and their facilitators contracted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to print ballot papers, result sheets and other sensitive materials for the 2011 general election were Tuesday unravelled by THISDAY.

They were Tip3, a Spanish company represented by Hashim Dikko, and Graphic Inline (Gi) with Sanni Lamido as proxy.
Also on the list were Kalamazoo, represented by Dick Jackson, a Nigerian-Briton married to a lady from Kano; Aero-vote represented by one Yerima; and SanFrano, a German/Polish company represented by Sanni Musa.
The sixth company that benefited from the printing contract was VI Solutions, sponsored by Yahaya Sani.
SanFrano, according to investigation, was the firm that went to China to print the papers but failed to deliver on time for the April 2 elections.

The six contractors received over N13 billion for the printing of the 75 million ballot papers and result sheets for each of the elections. The contracts were awarded to the companies by INEC in late February this year, according to investigation.
Going by the terms of the contract, each of the companies was expected to print 75 million ballot papers and result sheets for the elections in respect of the National Assembly, presidential, governorship and state assembly elections. The number of registered voters is 73 million.

THISDAY gathered that 75 million copies for the main presidential election and another 75 million copies for a run-off, totalling 150 millon were authorised by Jega and awarded to Tip3 Company, the Spanish firm.
It was also leant that the Nigerian partners of Tip3, having assessed the volume of work involved in their contract, made representation to the commission that given the time constraint, they could not guarantee timely delivery of the job, but INEC was said to have urged them on.

THISDAY investigation also showed that the Spanish firm being naïve about the importance of the job, went ahead to print the run-off election papers first and returned the job on the main election to INEC on March 23 with the excuse that it could no longer handle it.

Sources at the commission also revealed that the trio of Jega, his chief of staff, who also doubles as a consultant, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, and an unnamed senior Presidency official took charge of the award of the contracts for the printing of 200 million copies of the ballot papers and result sheets.

According to the source, INEC in December 2010 set up four committees to traverse the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Lithuania, South Africa, Asia and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) to search for suitable printers.

Jega, as chairman of the committee ‘A’, visited the United States and Canada, with Prof. Lai Olurode and U.F. Usman as members of his committee.

It was further gathered that Mr. Nuru Yukubu, chairman of committee ‘B’, visited England and Ireland, with Mrs. G.N. Nwafor, Dr. Oniyangi, Col. M. K Hammanga, D. I. Anumba as members of the committee.
The third committee had Mr. Philip Umeadi, Mrs. T. Iremiren and K.N. Ukeagu as members and visited Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Lithuania, while the fourth committee headed by Dr. Ishmael Igbani visited South Africa, Asia and UAE. Members of the committee included Dr. Chris Iyimoga, Prince Solomon Soyebi and Mrs. Amina Yusuf.

THISDAY gathered that trouble started when the four committees returned from their overseas assessment tour of facilities of printers of security materials and raised another committee headed by the INEC National Commissioner in Charge of Logistics, Col. M. K Hammanga, to harmonise the reports.

The harmonisation committee, in its report, recommended that the ballot papers, result sheets and other sensitive materials be printed in Germany, France and Poland.
The committee also recommended that US should be excluded because of distance, while England was also rejected because of high cost of printing there.

It also rejected South Africa because of the 2007 general election experience which led to the delay, as some of the sensitive election papers were still on ground during the poll.

The Hammanga committee subsequently shortlisted 21 companies and the list was submitted to Jega.
It was discovered that to the utter surprise of the committee members, INEC dumped the shortlisted companies.
“Since then, the issues on the award of the contracts for the printing of the ballot papers, the result sheets and other sensitive election materials was shrouded in secrecy. The files relating to the contracts were always kept in the office of the INEC chairman,” the source said.

Graphic Inline, one of the firms that mistakenly went ahead to produce the ballot papers for the re-run elections, told INEC afterwards that its next delivery for the ballot papers would be April 12.
This development, THISDAY learnt, accounted for the firm’s failure to meet the deadline and forced INEC to re-award it to another firm, V.I. Solutions.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday expressed his continued support and confidence in Jega, saying he was optimistic that he would do a good job and get the desired free and fair elections in the country this time around.
Contrary to speculations that he had lost confidence in Jega, Jonathan said he would have initiated the process for his removal from office if he had the slightest doubt that he was no longer capable of delivering the elections according to the expectations of Nigerians.

He spoke at a photo exhibition by George Esiri, a photo journalist, on his campaign trail titled: “The People’s President” at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, where he assured Nigerians that there was no cause for alarm as they would not be disappointed.

To him, the decision of the electoral body was the best in the circumstances, adding that if they had gone ahead with the exercise, result sheets would have arrived centres very late at night which would have raised other issues and concerns.
He also asked Nigerians to see the postponement as a demonstration that the electoral body wanted to get things done the right way so that it would be obvious to all that the exercise was open and credible.

“You know that of course, if he is no longer performing well, I will communicate to the National Assembly to terminate his appointment. Until I do that, I am fully in his support and I know that he will do well,’’ he said.

The president acknowledged that going for the same election at a later date was a sacrifice all Nigerians have to make to sustain democracy in spite of the cost to those who, like him, travelled to exercise their franchise before it was cancelled.

Via: ThisDay.

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