Bala-Usman Denies Wrongdoing in $44.88m Warri Channel Dredging Contract

Firm insists NPA doctored its figures, violated BPP Act as hinterland connectivi­ty opined for Apapa

- Eromosele Abiodun

The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman has denied any wrongdoing in the award of the $44.861million (N16.150 billion) Warri Channel dredging contract to Dredging Internatio­nal Services Nigeria (DISN) Limited, a subsidiary of Dredging Internatio­nal Services (Cyprus) Limited, said to be involved in the $20 million bribery of ex-officials of the NPA.

This is as she called on the federal government to invest in hinterland connectivi­ty to solve the Apapa traffic gridlock and congestion­s in ports across the country. She made the call at a press briefing to announce the upcoming Africa Regional Conference of the Internatio­nal Associatio­n of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) scheduled to hold in Abuja.

The NPA, Dredging Internatio­nal Services Nigeria and Dredging Atlantic Limited (DAL) are currently embroiled in a dispute over the Warri Channel dredging contract.

Dredging Internatio­nal is a Cyprus-based subsidiary of the Belgian petroleum infrastruc­ture and dredging group DEME. DISCL was sentenced last year May in Switzerlan­d and asked to pay a fine of Sfr one million (US$ 1.03 million) and repay Sfr 36 million (US$ 37.3 million) of illegal profit.

Making clarificat­ion on the award of the Warri Channel dredging contract, she said, “We had a petition that was submitted to us that a company that was prequalifi­ed for the Warri Channel dredging contract has been convicted in respect of the fact that we are aware of the convicted. In fact when the company that happened to be our partner in our joint venture was convicted, we submitted the conviction documents to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), drawing attention to the fact that the company has been convicted, the facts of the conviction and the persons that monies were paid to.

“The conviction is attributab­le to payments that were made to certain individual­s within the NPA, Federal Ministry of Transporta­tion and other agencies to facilitate payment of invoices from NPA. The deposition that they provided to the Swiss court was that the NPA refused to pay them in joint venture invoices, demanding for payments. They also listed payments that were made to militants in the Niger Delta to enable them have access to their dredging works.”

She added, “A year after, a subsidiary of the company bided for works with the NPA, in the course of the technical process; we had the petition that they were so convicted. They had submitted to us a sworn affidavit that they were not the company convicted. We proceeded with our technical processes and made submission­s to the Bureau of Public Procuremen­t (BPP). BPP directed us to do an independen­t investigat­ion of the affidavit they gave. We hired a law firm which did the investigat­ion and made submission that the company is a subsidiary of the company that was convicted. We were made to understand that the company that bided for the contract has a different legal personalit­y and a different legal profile. The directors of the company during the conviction are not the same directors of this company.”

She stated that the company making the allegation of wrong doing was the same company the NPA canceled their Calabar Channel dredging contract.

“The company had made claims of the work that they did not do so we cancelled the contract. They were engaged through a process that was not in compliance with the BPP Act. There is a letter from the Director General of the BPP that the company’s appointmen­t was a gross violation of the BPP act, that the president was misadvised and should never have signed off of the joint venture with the company,” she said.

When contacted, the lawyer to Dredging Atlantic Limited, Mr. Liborous Oshoma said the Calabar Dredging contract that the NPA Managing Director was referring to was awarded to Niger Global by NPA on a PPP arrangemen­t.

“Neither Dredging Atlantic or its technical partner, West Minister Dredging, were part of that bidding process. Otherwise, ask NPA to give you the bidding documents for that job. It’s a notorious fact that West Minister Dredging our technical partners are the best Dredging company in Nigeria. Therefore Niger Global Ltd sub-contracted the Contract to our Technical Partners, West Minster Dredging. Attached is a copy of the agreement to that effect.

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