- Says agency seeking FEC’s approval to deploy scanners in ports within two weeks
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, has disclosed that some of its technical partners in its joint venture companies recently sanctioned in a Swiss Court for bribing NPA officials to defraud the federal government would be investigated and prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Speaking on Channels Television in Lagos on Saturday, Bala-Usman said NPA had asked for guidance from the Attorney General of the Federation on its continued relationship with the entities in view of their sanctioning in the Swiss Court for corruption.
Swiss prosecutors had last month named four former Nigerian government officials in a multinational bribe scandal relating to contract awards at NPA. The former Nigerian government officials were indicted alongside Dredging International, one of the technical partners that was sentenced to a fine of one million Swiss Francs and directed to refund 36 million Swiss Francs in illegal profits for allegedly making the illicit payments to the Nigerian officials. Dredging International Services is one of the technical partners of Bonny Channel Management Limited (BCML) that runs the Bonny Channel Company (BCC) with the NPA in a joint-venture – public-private partnership.
Speaking on the issue, Bala-Usman said, â€œRecently we had a situation where one of our technical partners in our joint venture companies was sanctioned in a Switzerland court for being said to have bribed officials of the NPA over a period. We have obtained the Swiss court sanctioning and forwarded same to the EFCC for further investigation on the persons and the entities that were said to have benefited from the graft. We have also forwarded the Swiss court documents to the AGF office for them to guide us on our continued relation with this entity in view of the sanctioning that it has gotten from the Swiss court for corrupt practices with NPA officials.â€
On the measures put in place to fight corruption at the nationâ€™s ports, she stated that, â€œFor every corrupt practice that we identify we forward to the EFCC to investigate and determine what prosecution process they will embark upon. When we identify a legal concern whereby there is a lack of clarity on the role of government or there is a seeming disadvantage that has been provided to the Nigerian people, we have forwarded to the Antony General to provide legal guidance on how we can exit some of these relationships.
â€œA lot of the corruption practices that we have identified within the port operation are attributable to certain contractual obligations the NPA has entered with entities whereby the federal government is shortchanged. We are working at reviewing such agreements and we are working on terminating some of the agreements. We have reached out to the relevant agencies and communicated our position on this.â€
She also disclosed that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transportation would in the next few days present a joint memo to the Federal Executive Council for approval for the deployment of scanners in the nationâ€™s ports in the next two weeks.
The deployment, she stressed, will eliminate corrupt practices and ensure efficiency and easy clearance of cargo at the ports
Bala-Usman who used the occasion to review her performance since her appointment one year ago as the head of the NPA said, â€œThe last one year has been challenging but we have been able to institute several layers of transparency in our operations, we have been able to enhance the capacity of our ports, it is a journey and we are looking to providing more efficiency in port operations within our tenure. I have been challenged by my appointment; it is an opportunity to show the world and Nigerians that a woman is able to deliver on any task given.â€
While stating that the NPA alone is not responsible for the rot in the port, she said several government agencies in the port collaborate to ensure the facilitation of cargo clearance and port operation.
â€œThe role of the NPA primarily is to provide harbor operation and berthing services; we facilitate the entrance of the vessels from the fairway buoy through our channels and offload at the terminals, at that point other agencies of government take overâ€, she said.
Speaking on multiple agencies operating at the ports, she said the NPA had implemented the 2011 federal government order on the number of agencies that should operate at the ports adding that the order is in line with international best practices.
â€œTo further enhance this we are working on introducing the single window platform, that platform will reduce the need for physical presence of agencies of government. You donâ€™t need to be there in person to enable you do your job. We are doing this to remove bottlenecks, duplication of data gathering and duplicity of certain functions and remove that one-on-one intervention, interaction with personnel of government. That will facilitate the removal of graft within our systemâ€, she added.
On the chaos on Apapa roads caused by container and tanker drivers, she said there must be inter modal transport system that facilitates the movement of cargo in our ports because movement of 70 per cent of cargo through the roads is not sustainable.
â€œWe are introducing electronic call up system to regulate the movement of tankers. Importers prefer to come to Lagos ports because the access roads from Lagos to the hinterlands are better than what we have in the Eastern parts of the country. We have notified the Ministry of Works on the need to address this to fast track the evacuation of cargo and reduce the burden on Lagos roads, â€œshe stated.