The embattled and suspended Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman has been accused by the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) of awarding channel management contract of between N50 billion and N60 billion yearly contrary to a directive by the ministry to do the job in-house.
FMOT Permanent Secretary, Dr Magdalene Ajani, who stated this in reaction to an earlier media report, said the Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, had directed the stoppage of the deals involving the Lagos, Bonny and Port Harcourt channel management.
According to her, the Minister had directed that NPA should acquire the necessary machineries and undertake the job in-house rather than paying such humongous sums to dredging contractors.
According to Ajani, channel management contracts have been routinely awarded over the years by the NPA at a cost of between N50 and N60 billion on an annual basis.
Ajani said, “Pursuant to the above directive, the Ministry’s Maritime Services Department vide a letter No. T0160/S.30/T4E/T2/61 dated February 2, 2021, to the Managing Director, NPA titled: “Request for information on the expired contracts: Channel Management and Managing agent contracts”.
“The letter, inter alia, requested the NPA to provide the following information for the Ministry’s records and further necessary action:
‘The current status of the managing agent contract and the measures put in place to cover the vacuum created as a result of expiration of the contract to prevent revenue loss to the government:
“The current status of the Lagos and Bonny/Port Harcourt Channel management Companies and the measures put in place to cover the gap created by the expired contracts to ensure the channels are maintained for safe navigation and efficient service delivery;
“The volume dredged annually from the channels and the depths achieved from inception management contracts to date and the amount expended:
“The number of wrecks removed annually by the Channel Management Companies from inception of the contracts and amount spent and the total number of buoys replaced or maintained during the life span of the contract and the amount spent.
“It is instructive to note that despite the fact that the above letter was duly received by the NPA on the same February 2, the Authority has not deemed it necessary till date to respond to the Ministerial directives contained therein.”
The Transport Ministry accused Bala Usman of attempts to pre-empt the outcome of the probe panel’s work, unduly seeking to personalise “a serious national issue bordering on transparency and accountability in the handling of public finances” and “attempt to drag the Minister into the arena of brick-bats and mud-slinging in order to force a distraction from the assignment now being undertaken by the panel”.
“It will not be drawn into an endless media war with faceless campaigners using certain media houses to pursue an agenda that can best be canvassed before the Administrative Panel already set up to unravel issues surrounding the management of the NPA since 2016.
“The panel has been charged to be fair and equitable in its deliberations and will certainly ensure that the primary purpose of the enquiry is the promotion of the principles of transparency and accountability which are strongly espoused in the present political dispensation,” the Permanent Secretary stated.