Investigation has revealed a cover-up by Iris Smart Technologies Limited (ISTL) of the arrest of the deputy managing director of its mother company in Malaysia, Iris Corporation Berhad, Datuk Hamdan Mohammed Hassan, for alleged fraud, in order to get renewal of its contract for Nigeria’s e-Passport solution.
The cover-up is premised on the fear that as the Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement between federal ministry of interior and ISTL for the implementation of Nigeria’s e-Passport solution expires on 31st May, 2017, Hassan’s arrest could make its renewal difficult, especially with the anti-corruption posture of the Buhari administration.
According to documents obtained by LEADERSHIP Sunday, Hassan was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for alleged graft involving an e-passport project for the Republic of Guinea on 20th January, 2017, a development which forced Iris Corporation Berhad to strip him of his executive powers and appoint COO Choong Choo Hock to take over his duties and responsibilities as acting CEO of Iris Corp.
Details of the arrest can also be found in the following link: http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/01/20/iris-corp-deputy-md-arrested-over-epassport-project/
Although, the company has said the arrest would likely not have any implication on the validity of the contract and e-Passport project or any material effect on its earnings and net assets for the financial year ending March 31st, 2017, it no doubt, questions its integrity to have its Nigeria’s e-Passport contract renewed.
The PPP agreement was signed in 2007 on behalf of the federal government by the supervising ministry in respect of supply and production of the electronic passport booklets currently in use.
Investigation further revealed that the Country Signing Certification Authority (CSCA) which is the country’s anchor of trust is controlled by Iris Smart Technologies Limited (ISTL) and not the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), even as the CSCA is the Seal of the Government of Nigeria and ought to be under its control and not the vendor.
Experts have also argued that with the vendor having full control of the CSCA, it is possible for ISTL to issue e-Passport without the knowledge of the NIS since it does not control the database.
As the CSCA which was set in 2007 expires on 31st May, 2017, and the only Document Signer Certificate (DSC) issued under this CSCA expires on 7th May, 2017, the implication is that since Nigeria issues 5 years passport, all passports issued after 2nd June, 2012, will still be valid while the CSCA will have expired.
This means that passports issued after 2nd June, 2012, whose validity exceed expiry date of the DSC, will have issues internationally and will have to be recalled back and holders reissued new ones.
According to the executive secretary, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), “It is a shame that at this age and time, we are still outsourcing our IT jobs to foreign companies. We have all the requisite capability, the technical know-how and human capital, as a country, to handle such IT projects.”
This is as the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recently described its inability to own control the e-Passport database as a policy issue.