…Company makes false public-private partnership claims with NITDA, Science and Technology Ministry
Nigeria is a country where many questions are raised, but very few are ever answered. Chief among the issues which currently baffles the minds of many people is: who owns the multimillion Naira worth company named the National eGovernment Strategies Limited (NeGSt)?
From its name, the company appears to be owned by the federal government, but the certified true copies of its Form CAC 2A, Form CAC 7A and the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the company filed at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) unambiguously showed that the National eGovernment Strategies Limited was registered as a private business outfit with registration number RC 506023.
Strangely, promoters of the National eGovernment Strategies Limited appear to be forcing ownership of some shares of the company on two government agencies. Instructively, Form CAC 2A of the National eGovernment Strategies Limited listed the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) as having 1,000,000 (one million) shares each in the company while Form CAC 7 indicates that the Information Technology Development Agency and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology are represented on the board of the company by one Mr Peter Jack and Mr Emmanuel Edet, respectively.
To begin with, top civil servants told this medium that the law does not allow Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government to obtain shares in private companies directly. Little wonder that the National Information Technology Development Agency and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology denied owning shares in the National eGovernment Strategies Limited as it is being claimed by the company.
Responding to an FOI request, the Director of Legal Services in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Mrs Y. U. Odu-Thomas, said: “I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated November 7, 2019, on the above subject. I am further directed to inform you that the names specifically referred in your request (Mr Peter Jack and Emmanuel Edet) are not staff of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
“Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is not privy to her having shares in National eGovernment Strategies Limited or any other company. Kindly accept the assurances of the warm regards of the Honourable Minister.”
When contacted for comments, NITDA’s Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar, said “this issue has been going on since late last year and we have been responding to media queries on this. Pls contact Dr Vincent Olatunji via SMS on 08023020135.” Dr Vincent Olatunji did not respond to SMS by our staff.
However, a senior staff of the agency told this medium on condition of anonymity that NITDA does not have shares in ny private company. “It is pointless to say that NITDA, as a federal government agency, does not have and it is not supposed to have shares in any private company. We are regulators, what’s our business with owning shares in private firms?
How can we regulate such firm or firms if we are part owners? So, it doesn’t make sense for anyone to say that NITDA has shares in a private company like the National eGovernment Strategies Limited,” he said.
So far and unsurprisingly too, the National eGovernment Strategies Limited, which enjoys the support of some influential people in the Ministry of Interior, is one of the vendors providing ‘consultancy services’ to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) via a contract between the company and the Interior Ministry. To this end, in four years alone, the National eGovernment Strategies Limited was paid N1,157,404,965.67 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Four Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty-Five Naira, Sixty-Seven Kobo) for providing services that are not concrete.
The breakdown is as follows: In 2016, the company was paid N297,599,882.22 (Two Hundred and Ninety-Seven Million, Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty-Two Naira, Twenty-Two Kobo) while in 2017, 2018 and 2019, it received a whopping N281,046,898.84 (Two Hundred and Eighty-One Million, Forty-Six Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety-Eight Naira, Eighty-Four Kobo), N302,069,665.39 (Three Hundred and Two Million, Sixty-Nine Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-Five Naira, Thirty-Nine Kobo) and N276,688,519.22 (Two Hundred and Seventy-Six Million, Six Hundred and Eighty-Eight Thousand, Five Hundred and Nineteen Naira, Twenty-Two Kobo), respectively.
Illegal use of the words ‘national’ and ‘government’
Experts told this medium that the National eGovernment Strategies Limited was registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in a clear violation of the provisions of Section 30 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2004 which stipulates that: “(2) Except with the consent of the Commission, no company shall be registered by a name which – (a) includes the word “Federal,” “National,” “Regional,” “State,” “Government’ or any other word which in the opinion of the Commission suggests or is calculated to suggest that it enjoys the patronage of the Government of the Federation or the Government of a State in Nigeria, as the case may be, or any Ministry or Department of Government; or (b) contains the word” Municipal’ or “Chartered” or in the opinion of the Commission suggests or is calculated to suggest, connection with any municipality or other local authority; or (c) contains the word “Co-operative” or the words “Building Society;” or (d) contains the word “Group” or “Holding.”
But the Corporate Affairs Commission, in response to a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) request by this medium, explained that it consented to the use of the word “national” by the company based on a request by the National Information Technology Development Agency via a letter dated January 22, 2004.
However, a top official of NITDA told this medium in confidence that the letter seeking the consent of CAC for the National eGovernment Strategies Limited to use words that are exclusively reserved for authorities was not official as there was no document to suggest a partnership between NITDA and the company to warrant issuance of that letter.
“I can tell you authoritatively that NITDA does not have any form of a public-private partnership with the National eGovernment Strategies Limited. We don’t have that, and if anybody tells you that we do, let them give you documents to that effect.
“I also want to make it clear that the letter purportedly issued by NITDA seeking registration of National eGovernment Strategies Limited using prohibited words is not official because there’s no any PPP arrangement with the company to warrant that. A Public-Private Partnership is not a secret arrangement. It’s an open thing that the federal government and the private companies involved celebrate.
“So, NITDA couldn’t have officially issued that letter to CAC seeking consent for the registration of a private company that it has no business with. Maybe somebody used his or her influence or abused his or her office to get it written. We cannot have a PPP arrangement with the National eGovernment Strategies Limited and conceal it,” he said.
Some staff of NITDA also expressed concern that officials of the National eGovernment Strategies Limited often cite NITDA Act 2004 as the foundation for the formation of the company in an attempt to cover up its fraudulent registration.
“In 2016, the House of Representatives mandated its Committee on Interior, chaired by Hon Adams Jagaba, to examine all agreements entered into by the Federal Ministry of Interior and any company or persons, on any matter relating to the issuance of travel document including international passports, residence permits and border surveillance and patrol.
“The company made a presentation to the company using the name “National eGovernment Strategies,” which it claims derives its mandate based on the provisions of Section 6 (a) to (f) of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Act 2004.
“The presentation, dated February 24, 2016, is titled: “Public Hearing on Federal Ministry of Interior Relating to Issuance of Travel Documents – Submission to the House Committee on Interior by National eGovernment Strategies (NeGSt). You can check it out yourself on their official website (www.negst.com.ng),” one of the staff said.
This medium ran checks on the official website of the company a couple of months ago to independently verify the claims. Our findings revealed that the website contained the submission said to have been made by the company to the House of Representatives. However, a recent verification exercise showed that the website was redesigned and some features removed while new ones introduced.
In an article titled, “ORIGIN OF NEGST,” the National eGovernment Strategies Limited attempts to justify its formation without providing proofs, saying in the concluding part of the article that: “All documents referenced in this letter are available for your sighting at our HQ offices, Abuja.”
However, investigations by this medium indicate that there is no evidence that the National eGovernment Strategies Limited is a creation of any section of NITDA Act, and there is no valid document to suggest that the company had or still has any form of a public-private partnership with NITDA to warrant its registration using words exclusively reserved for authorities.