NPA seeks termination of N26bn Calabar channel contract
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said it has uncovered a N26 billion contract scam involving dredging of the Calabar Channel, in a Joint Venture with Messrs Niger Global Engineering Company.
Documents sighted by Daily Trust showed that after an initial payment of $12.5 million to Niger Global Engineering by the NPA in 2014, the company failed to carry out any work on the channel.
A status document on the contract presented by Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman showed that after failing to dredge the channel, Global Engineering is now seeking payment of about $22 million as balance for the contract. The total contract sum was about N26 billion.
The Authority said the Joint Venture agreement with Global Engineering on the dredging of the Calabar Channel was wrong saying “The consultant clearly advised against the establishment of a channel management company for the Calabar Navigation Channel at that time. This was because the volume of ship traffic was low and did not justify a joint venture agreement, which is normally funded from ship dues.”
However, the Federal Government at that time ignored due processes and consultants advice to form the Calabar Channel Management Limited (CCM), through a joint venture agreement between NPA and Global Engineering, the document said.
The documents said “All efforts to find details of dredging activities for the period, which CCM claimed to have dredged the Calabar Access Channel (November 2014 to January 2015) proved abortive.
“The Harbour Master and Port Hydrographer during the period stated they were unaware of any dredging undertaken by CCM during the period. Further, there was no communication between the company and the port management on their purported dredging activities during the period.””
NPA said findings had revealed that Niger Global Engineering Company, its partner in the CCM did not dredge the Calabar Channel. He said “After careful examination of the Authrity’s overall dredging data/vessel movement in conjunction with inputs from the Authority’s relevant personnel, it is questionable if any dredging actually took place.”
The Authority wanted to dredge the access to Calabar Port from 8.0m to 10.0m depth to accommodate larger vessels. The documents revealed that NPA had advertised the dredging for bidding, but the process was abandoned, while the contract worth over N26 billion was awarded to Niger Global Engineering Company through the joint venture agreement.
In a memo to former president Goodluck Jonathan dated May 18, 2015, Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement faulted the process of awarding the contract to Global Engineering.
The BPP said Jonathan was ill advised not to allow due process prevail on the project “In line with extant regulations and procedure on public procurement, a project of over N26 billion should be procured through competitive bidding process to ensure value for money among others as per your earlier approval.
“It will amount to gross violation of due process to award a contract of this magnitude to a company that failed or refused to bid for the project but only surreptitiously compiled and substituted figures from a previous submission made by Lagos Channel management in 2004, for the Lagos Channel Project,” said the Bureau.
The BPP said the Calabar Channel Management Limited was hurriedly incorporated after its initial objection “for the purpose of obtaining this contract without competition.”
NPA seeks cancellation of agreement
The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman is now seeking termination of the joint venture between the Authority and Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company on the Calabar Channel Management Limited. She said the move is to resolve the lingering issue. In a presentation to the board of NPA, Usman said “The payment already made and the parts outstanding be considered as debt, which would be subjected to through forensic audit by the firm hired to verify the claim.
“That the Authority should establish the best mode of transparently managing the Calabar Channel in line with extant procedures on public procurements following which, Messrs Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Limited alongside all other qualified companies can then openly compete for the contract.”
Efforts to get the reaction of Senator Hope Uzodinma (PDP, Imo), who is owner of Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company yielded no result as he neither picked his calls nor reply the text messages sent to him.
Twice our correspondent called his glo line, it rang but he did not answer the calls. The first call was put to his mobile phone at 2.22pm and the second by 5.18pm. He did not also reply to the three text messages sent to the same line.
Our correspondent in the text messages asked Uzodinma the level of works at the Calabar channel, why has NPA refused to pay the balance of N25bn, and what he will do now that NPA has called off the joint venture?
NPA had in 2014 handed the $12.5m contract of the dredging of Calabar channel to Uzodinma’s company, Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Ltd.