Mr. Richard Klosa, a German businessman and Managing Director of Connexx Plants Nigeria Limited, developed a heart ailment and hypertension following a slide into financial difficulties occasioned by Mr. Abdul’aziz Yari, governor of Zamfara State.
Mr. Klosa, whose company has been doing business in Nigeria since 1994, is currently being pursued by creditors from whom he got money to execute contracts for the Zamfara State government, which has bluntly refused to pay him his balance since he completed the job in 2013.
In February 2013, the Zamfara State Government awarded Connexx Plants a contract for the supply and installation of radio studio equipment at Zamfara Radio and Television Station, Gusau. The contract cost, according to the contract notification document issued by the Office of the Governor of Zamfara State and exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters, was N193,804.00. The contract notification document was dated 7 February 2013. Governor Yari wanted to commission the studio on 29 May 2013 as part of Democracy Day activities, leaving Mr. Kolsa and his company with a little over two months to work.
Just as it was about to start work, Connexx Plants discovered that the studio building, erected by a local contractor, did not have air conditioning units, earthing system, proper electrification and other items required for the installation of the radio and television equipment.
Mr. Kolsa told SaharaReporters that he complained to the Information Commissioner that those items were not available in the studio building. Given the brevity of the time the government had, the Information Commissioner, said Mr. Kolsa, mandated Connexx Plants to supply and install the missing items. As that was not in the original plan, Mr. Kolsa’s company had to seek extra funding.
“We had to take loans for that. We had to use the parallel rate for the purchase of forex, complained to FGPC, Gusau, about the foreign exchange rate difference and we finished all assignments in record time, as we got ready in the night of 28 May 2013. A very successful commissioning took place the next day,” Mr. Kolsa told SaharaReporters.
The completion was confirmed by the certificate of delivery, work completion and acceptance signed on behalf of the government by Mr Ibrahim Muhammad, Commissioner for Information, on behalf on Connexx, Mr. Habibu Abdullahi and Mr. Gotz Ahlert on behalf of Studio Hamburg Media Consult.
That job completion marked the beginning of Mr. Kolsa’s ordeal. Two weeks after the job was delivered, he visited the Information Commissioner in Gusau. The reception he got was heady, with the Commissioner gushing: “Mr. Richard, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me proud that day. Thank you.” However, the Commissioner avoided the issue of payment of Mr. Kolsa’s balance even when it was raised many times.
Almost one year after he completed the job, he said, he asked the Commissioner via text message and the response he got convinced him that he would have to seek an audience with the Zamfara governor if he wanted to be paid.
“I am frustrated”, Mr. Kolsa said, was the response he got from the Commissioner by text message. Mr. Kolsa started writing letters to the governor, requesting to see him. He got no response. He then elected to go through members of the governor’s family, members of his party and friends. Still, no dice.
In December 2014, Mr. Kolsa said a man helped track Mr. Yari to a hotel in Kano and presented his case. The governor said he could not pay because he did not have money. When Mr. Kolsa’s friend suggested to Mr. Yari to pay part of the money, the governor said he could not do so as he was not in Gusau.
In February 2015, Mr. Kolsa spoke with the governor, who then was visiting the United States, through a friend who phoned him and handed the phone to Mr. Yari. The governor said he should come to Nigeria around Easter time.
Mr. Kolsa did as told, and spent seven days in Gusau without Mr. Yari seeing him. He was back again at the end of 2015, when in the company of Mr. Yari’s friend, Mr Aliyu Mustapha, he spent 10 hours waiting to see Mr. Yari. He saw him for less than three minutes around 2 a.m. and got the customary “I don’t have money”.
Mr. Kolsa sent people to the Zamfara State Ministry of Finance, where it was confirmed that there was no payment voucher in his name. He was told that his money might have been shared, so he suspected fraud and wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which equally ignored him.
Mr. Kolsa returned to Germany, hoping for luck. That appeared to have smiled at him last year August when he received a phone call from the new Zamfara State Information Commissioner inviting him on behalf of the governor to come to Nigeria. The purpose for which he was wanted in Nigeria, he said, was to carry out assessment and raise new proposals for the AM and FM Radio as well as television. He quickly did. He also reminded the new Commissioner of what he was he was being owed and declared that payment of that sum was an important reason for which he traveled to Nigeria.
His hopes began evaporating almost as soon as the proposals were completed.
“Seeing the governor with my new proposals and my file concerning the old amount became a problem despite the fact that I was in Nigeria on his invitation,” said Mr. Kolsa.
His hopes, again, got raised when, with the new Information Commissioner, he tracked Mr. Yari to Kaduna, where the governor approved his new proposals and asked the Commissioner to raise memos to start the job. The governor also instructed the Commissioner to bring Mr. Kolsa’s other file to his office the following Monday in addition to telling him to call the Finance Commissioner to release payment instructions on his outstanding balance of N195.5 million.
That was the last interaction he would have with them. Last December, Mr. Kolsa said he flew to Nigeria, spending five days in Gusau. Despite Mr. Yari being informed that the businessman was around, he refused to see him. On his return to Germany for Christmas, Mr. Kolsa said he went down with a heart ailment and debilitating high blood pressure for which he was hospitalized. A friend who saw his condition advised him to forget about the new contracts and invest efforts into getting what was being owed to him.
That has yet to yield any fruit, leaving Connexx in financial choppy waters. The company has not been able to pay rent on its Abuja office for three years. It is owing staff salaries for two years. Equally gravely, it is owing sub-contractors in Germany and Nigeria. Studio Hamburg Media Consult, a German firm that worked a sub-contractors, has already taken Mr. Kolsa to court. Loans taken to complete the projects have accumulated crippling interests. German friends who gave Mr. Kolsa loans for the projects have lost patience and are forcefully demanding to be paid back. He was forced to close down his office in Germany in April.
Back in Nigeria, the Federal Inland Revenue Service has sealed his Abuja office. What the Zamfara State government owes Mr. Kolsa, according to a 20 February 2017 letter to Mr. Yari, is N195,594,262.53. The letter, also obtained by SaharaReporters, broke his demands down.
Major demands, stated the letter, accounts for N40,017,948. Exchange rate difference accounts for N95,817,622. Additional expenditures total N22.58million. Interest on loans as December 2016 stood at N37,174,692.53. On 23 February, the German Embassy in Nigeria wrote to Mr. Yari in respect of Mr. Kolsa’s ordeal. The governor, as with previous entreaties, responded with indifference.