Zamfara State, a region noted for its staggering poverty levels, has found itself under scrutiny once again.
According to a report by Punch Newspaper in 2021, the state holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of poor and vulnerable individuals in Nigeria. Shockingly, the data, obtained from the National Social Registry, paints a dire picture. A staggering 3,836,484 people, hailing from 825,337 households, are counted among the state’s impoverished population.
As revealed by the report, the information was made available by Joe Abuku, the Communications Manager of the National Social Safety-Net Coordinating Office, who shared this unsettling data in response to inquiries from investigative reporters. This information is particularly concerning, as it highlights the sheer scale of poverty and vulnerability faced by the people of the state.
For a state grappling with such widespread impoverishment, it is only logical to expect its leaders to exercise restraint, prioritize the welfare of their constituents, and judiciously manage available resources. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case in Zamfara, especially during the tenure of Bello Matawalle, who served as the state’s governor from 2019 to 2023.
A Glimpse into Zamfara’s Troubled Reality
Zamfara State, located in Nigeria’s northern region, consists of just fourteen local governments and boasts a population of approximately 5,307,154 people (with 2,706,649 males and 2,600,506 females), according to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission. These figures underscore the dire circumstances that many residents find themselves in.
Despite having laid down clear procurement guidelines, as outlined by the Zamfara State Bureau of Public Procurement, which emphasize transparency, accountability, and equal opportunities for qualified bidders, the state appears to have faltered in upholding these principles.
Uncovering Financial Impropriety
A deeper examination of contracts awarded by the state in 2021 has revealed a disconcerting trend of financial mismanagement. SecretsReporters, an investigative entity, has unearthed evidence pointing to the misuse of public funds by the government of Matawalle through the state Ministry of Information, primarily through the engagement of a non-existent company in 2021 when the state was being rated as the poorest in the country.
One of such frauds involves a contract titled “Construction and Supply of Equipment to Zamfara Radio, AM FM, & TV Station (Additional Works).” Here are the pertinent details:
Date of Award: June, 2021
Procurement Method: Single Source
Contractor: Lshfeez Nig. Ltd
Cost of the Contract: N1,283,137,099.68
Contract Number: MOI/ZM/NOT/2021/001
What raises immediate concern is that Lshfeez Nig. Ltd, the awarded contractor, does not appear to be a registered entity with the Corporate Affairs Commission, the official body responsible for business and company registration in Nigeria.
SecretsReporters discovered that no company with such name exists, pointing to the fact that the contract does not exist and that the funds would have been diverted for private use.
By due process, a company is deemed ineligible for government contract if it does not provide its CAC certificate, Tax Clearance Certificate, PENCOM Compliance Certificate, Bureau Of Public Procurement (BPP) Registration, Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Compliance Certificate, and National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) Compliance Certificate.
For, Lshfeez Nig. Ltd , it appears to be a name forged for the purpose of contract fraud and not an existing entity with the above stated requirements. The implications of such financial impropriety are far-reaching. The enormity of the sum, N1,283,137,099.68, raises questions about where these funds were truly directed. If distributed among the populace, it could have had a significant impact, potentially providing each Zamfara resident with no less than N200. Alternatively, these substantial resources could have been channeled into the construction of modern schools or the establishment of world-class technology skill acquisition centers, which would undoubtedly benefit the state’s inhabitants.