Federal Ministry of Transportation says it objected to the award of Bonny and Warri channels management contracts by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) because it is cheaper to procure necessary equipment and execute the contracts in-house.
Several reports have narrowed the suspension of Hadiza Bala-Usman, as the Managing Director of NPA to the cold war between her and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi,
This originated from the renewal of $1.5 billion channel management contracts.
Usman had claimed she was neither queried nor aware of the allegations against her management before her suspension.
According to reports, there have been allegations that the Minister insisted on the selection of two Chinese companies by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) for the channels.
In reaction to the allegation, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Magdalene Ajani, in a statement issued on Tuesday, described the allegations as “deliberate attempt to drag the integrity of the minister in the mud.”
The statement read, “It is necessary to place on record that while Channel Management contracts have been routinely awarded over the years by the Nigerian Ports Authority at a cost of between 50 and 60 billion naira on an annual basis, the Honourable Minister has adopted a firm position that the NPA should undertake the job of channel management on an in-house basis through the acquisition of the necessary machinery and professional capacity given the humongous annual sums paid out to dredging contractors by the authority.”
“Indeed, following the expiration of the Channel Management contracts for the Lagos, Bonny and Port Harcourt Channels in 2020 and the initiation of the contractual process for the renewal of the said contracts early in 2021, the HMT on 22nd January 2021, while responding to a request for the NPA to provide requisite details related to the proposed transactions directed in the following words:
“There is the need for NPA to know that they should purchase their own equipment and not award any contract.”
The Ministry stated that documented evidence of its position on the contract was that the NPA was engaging in “obvious profligacy and wastage of public funds to be spending over fifty billion naira (N50 billion) on an annual basis on contracts for which it could purchase machinery and build in-house capacity for greater long-term benefits.”
According to the statement, NPA did not deem it necessary to respond to the above ministerial directives.
Meanwhile, an 11-member investigative panel has been established to probe the NPA on all contracts awarded since 2016 when Bala Usman became its MD.
The panel which is headed by the Director of Maritime Services, Transportation Ministry, Auwal Suleiman, has six members from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) and the remaining five from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
In other news, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Tuesday, had demanded the immediate sack, investigation, and prosecution of the Minister.
The PDP in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said:
“Our party asserts that the fact that it took the minister six years (2016 to 2021) to query the NPA managing director over the alleged looting of N165 billion unremitted operating surplus of the agency, which is under his purview, is suspect, and raises public belief that he (Amaechi) only acted apparently to shied himself after indicting audit documents had already been exposed.”
However, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has described the claims of PDP as nonsensical, adding that the NPA probe is a clear testimony that President Buhari has zero-tolerance for corrupt practices in his administration.