By Adekunle Adekoya
AT 50, Nigeria has never been short of blueprints and proposals aimed at uplifting the lives of her people, but there has always been problem with implementing such proposals. In many, if not most of the situations, such well intended blueprints have been turned into avenues of personal enrichment, while the masses for whom they were intended were always left in the lurch.
One such blueprint is the one that gave rise to the National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP.
A few weeks back however, NAPEP was in the news concerning the sum of N417 million, in which an organization with the acronym, KORAN, was mentioned. Other organizations mentioned include Autobahn Techniques, who are contractors to NAPEP, Trimidan Ltd, an outfit whose silhouette in the NAPEP canvas is still unclear, and several individuals.
NAPEP took off and started importing and distributing tricycles branded in national colours, called Keke NAPEP. The Keke NAPEP was not entirely new; it had a forerunner made by Bajaj 3-Wheeler Autoricksha of India, introduced into Lagos by Col Mohammed Buba Marwa, then military administrator of Lagos. Then it was branded Keke Marwa.
As is usual here, a bureaucracy is needed to execute certain government initiatives, and NAPEP was headed by an official designated National Co-ordinator, but by appointment is a Special Adviser to the President on Poverty Alleviation. The current holder of that office is Dr Magnus Kpakol, a former Chief Economic Adviser to former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
To bring the tricycles to Nigerians, a private firm, Autobahn Techniques Ltd got the mandate to supply them to NAPEP, which then distributed to the public through its state offices. Autobahn forged synergies with Piaggio for the engines and other parts, Total Nigeria which formulated the lubricant for it, and Dunlop, which made the tyres.
Using the facilities of the moribund Volkswagen of Nigeria in Lagos, Autobahn assembled the Keke NAPEP and handed them over for distribution. After Volkswagen was privatised, Autobahn had to seek alternative facilities for the assembly of the tricycles. It now works out of a plant in the Iganmu area of Lagos.
In the first phase of the project, 2,000 units of the tricycles were ordered by NAPEP, which was fully supplied by Autobahn. In 2003, NAPEP ordered another 2,000 units, which was again fulfilled by Autobahn.
As a result of the successes of the first two phases, NAPEP ordered 5,000 units from Autobahn in 2007. Of this order, 3,690 had been supplied. Recipients of the keke paid back in monthly instalments, and after a while, became owners and self-employed riders. By this time, shenanigans started manifesting in the programme, as will be seen shortly.
First, to ensure that the monthly instalments do not fail, an association was born, called the Keke Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria, or KORAN, for short. In no time, KORAN became the buffer between NAPEP and its riders, collecting the tricycles from Autobahn, and remitting monies collected to NAPEP.
KORAN is also on record as having received and sold 3,190 units of the tricycles.
With a unit price of N295,793, the cash value came to N943,579,670. With six per cent of the price as insurance, five per cent for training, and four per cent as handling charges, KORAN was to have remitted the sum of N802,042,719.50. It is non-remittance of the monies due NAPEP, as well as slow completion of the 5,000 units ordered that prompted the National Co-ordinator, Dr Kpakol to send a fact-finding team to Lagos in August.
The team, headed by the Secretary of Programme, Dr. Dan Mou included the Director of Finance & Accounts, Ndako S.A, Director Coordination, Programme Department, Halilu M.L, Legal Adviser, Mrs. Obayagbo, Programme Desk Officer, KEKE NAPEP, R. Abua, Project Accounts Desk Officer, C. Nwankwoala, and the Special Assistant to SOP, P. Ibejiro, visited Autobahn’s offices in Maryland, Lagos, and surprisingly, a facility said to belong to KORAN on the 11th and 12th of August respectively.
From the report of the NAPEP team, what became clear was that KORAN, hitherto an association of people using the Keke NAPEP, had transmogrified into a corporation, assembling its own Keke NAPEP at its own assembly plant in Ota. Even more surprising is that the assembly facility, supposedly owned by KORAN is operating under the name, Trimidan Ltd. The NAPEP fact-finding team in its report, which is yet to be made public, noted the following, among others:
— At the purported premises of KORAN in Sango Ota, the team was struck by the edifice which was not called KORAN office by another name, a private limited liability company. The Team was also shown photographs of the official opening of the complex but again no representative of NAPEP was seen in any of those photos.
— The National Co-ordinator’s portrait is displayed in the KORAN presidents office.
— This new company, was currently assembling KEKE tricycle, painted them in National colours and branded them “KEKE NAPEP.”
— NAPEP was not aware of such assemblage.
— A number of these privately assembled KEKE NAPEP in the national colours are said to be en route Port Harcourt for delivery.
From the team’s observations in the report, more questions begging for answers surface.
What, if any are the links between KORAN and and the new company? When did KORAN become a corporation? Who are the promoters of the new company ? Does KORAN/ and the new company have a mandate from government to produce tricycles? If not, how did they get into this act, using national colours and distributing tricycles to states?
Further, just how many tricycles have been assembled and distributed by the new company to date? If the new company did not have a charter from government to produce keke for Nigerians, doesn’t it stand to reason that the tricycles produced and distributed outside the Autobahn/NAPEP mandate are frauds which should be treated for what it is? In fact, what has NAPEP done about this illegal assembly plant?
Perhaps the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and/or EFCC should take a deep look at the entire saga, because, as the team noted in its report, “it is obvious that there is now a clash of interest in KORAN
Indeed, whose interests are clashing with that of government? An unsavoury odour from the whole issue refuses to go away. The team sent by Kpakol to Lagos visited Autobahn’s offices in Maryland, and its assembly plant. As stated in the team’s report, it “departed for KORAN factory in Sango-Ota, Ogun State.”
If as stated later in the report that “NAPEP was not aware of such assemblage”, why would KORAN officials invite them to a facility they clearly knew was illegal, but yet was decorated with the NC’s portrait?