Five years after it was indicted in a $20 million bribery scandal, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has again shortlisted Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited among 21 firms for another project. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
The history of dredging scandals involving the NPA has lingered for two decades, which can be traced back to 1996, when the contract for the dredging of the 84- kilometers Calabar Port channel was awarded by the Federal Government to two firms- Van Oord and Jan de Nul.
The job was to scoop out 25 million cubic metres of sand to achieve an overall draft of eight metres to enable vessels of up to 30,000 tons sail on the water.
The two firms were given N3 billion for the job.
While Van Oord was asked to dredge the first 44 kilometres, Jan de Nul got the last 40 kilometers.
The abandoned job was re-awarded 10 years after by President Olusegun Obasanjo to Messrs Jan de Nul and Van Oord in 2006 at a sum of N20.2 billion ($56 million).
The entire length of the channel was divided between the two firms.
Van Oord was paid $26 million to dredge the first 44 kilometres while its competitor, Jan de Nul, got $30 million to dredge the last 40 kilometers of the channel.
The project began in July 2002 and lasted 64 weeks.
Also in 2006, the same contract was awarded by a former Minister of Transport, Dr Abiye Sekibo, at N14 billion after the firms failed to deliver.
Between 2008 and 2009, NPA received N6 billion and N7billion respectively, but the money was never used for the dredging.
The last contract was awarded by the Federal Government, under President Goodluck Jonathan to Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Limited (NGETCL) in 2014 at N20 billion before it was terminated by NPA in August 2017.
However, the contract was canceled last August by NPA’s management over alleged fraud in the award processes and shoddy execution of the contract.
Just recently, Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited was again shortlisted by the authority for a new contract.
The Swiss Government had in 2012 indicted the dredging firm in a $2G million bribery scam and was subsequently fined one million francs.
The company was also ordered to refund 36 million Swiss Francs as illegal profits.
Although the latest bribery scandal preceded the new management of NPA, led by Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, investigation, however, revealed that NPA has been pressurised by the government officials to consider giving a new contract to the company, while efforts to bring those indicted in the bribery scandal was frustrated within the system.
A reliable source in NPA alleged that some forces had influenced the ongoing investigation by NPA management.
The source explained that the Federal Government was no longer interested in investigating the $20million bribery.
“To our consternation, NPA has shortlisted Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited and 21 others for a new contract. The bid for the contract will open any moment from now, the source added.
Defending the firm, NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Usman, explained that it has had good working relationship with the authority in the southern part of the country.
She also explained that Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited had a joint venture service with NPA, adding that the firm was part of a conglomerate that established Bonny Channel Management Limited.
The Bonny Channel Company (BCC) was established to create and maintain a safe navigational passage for all vessels and marine users in and out of the Eastern Ports of Bonny Island, Onne, Okrika and Port-Harcourt.
Usman explained that NPA could not prevent any qualified company from submitting bid as stipulated by the public procurement act.
She noted: “This is the company that has been involved in dredging work at Escravos and Bonny channels and the channel South East. The company has prequalified requirements for the contract. We would continue our legitimate interaction with the company.”
She explained that the company borrowed money to execute its contract but NPA officials delayed payment of its invoices in order to induce them before the money was released.
Usman said that the company had incurred a lot of interest from their bankers and had subsequently responded to the government’s query that the officials of NPA refused to sign its invoices.
Government should flush out corrupt elements who still have their ways in NPA despite weighty allegations of corruption.
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