Eromosele Abiodun

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Monday denied allegation of fraud in the award of the $44.861million (N16.150 billion) Warri Channel dredging contract to Dredging International Services Nigeria (DISN) Limited.
The NPA said in a statement that contrary to what is being fed to the public, the award of the contract was guided by provisions of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) in all its procurement processes.

According to NPA, it did not violate the law in the Warri contract or any other contract.
The NPA added that it had maintained a dignified silence on the allegations until now as a result of the confidence that all processes as enumerated in the PPA of 2004 were followed in the award of the contract.

According to the NPA, “If indeed, the said entity had any valid grounds for protests, the law courts, rather than newspapers, where they have continued to peddle lies against the authority, would be their recourse. In addition to that, all procurement by the authority is subject to the supervision/approval of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the authority received the necessary approvals before going ahead with the award of the contract for the dredging Warri Channel.

“All arithmetic computations so done by the authority are in line with the PPA which so permits for the procuring entity to do such and consequent documentations of the computations were submitted to BPP for no objection which was obliged. The Authority, upon receipt of the petition alleging that Dredging International Nigeria Limited had been convicted by a law court in Switzerland, sought the legal counsel of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and requested an investigation of the petition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”

It added, “In addition to this, although Dredging International Nigeria Limited provided us with a sworn affidavit in support of claims that they were different from the company that was so convicted, the authority engaged a legal practitioner who embarked on an independent investigation of the petition and the claims of the company.

“The investigation revealed that allegations that Messers Dredging International Services Nigeria Limited had been convicted in a law court in Switzerland for corrupt practices involving some officials of the Nigerian government including the NPA were incorrect. The company so convicted in the Swiss Court is Dredging Cyprus Ltd which is a co-subsidiary of DISN. The two companies have different legal personalities as so recognised by the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2004.

“The conviction of a subsidiary company indeed is not the conviction of all companies within a group of companies. In addition, none of the directors so convicted for complicity by the court in Switzerland is on the board of Dredging International Nigeria Limited. The result of these investigations was made available to the BPP.”

Nevertheless, the NPA said the BPP itself set up an independent investigation of the petition and came to the conclusion that the company was eligible to participate in the bidding process.

“There have also been allegations of conflict of interest coming from the fact the Managing Director of the NPA alongside some of the Directors are on the board of Bonny Channel Company, a joint venture set up as a long term structure for the continuous management, maintenance and provision of navigational aids of the Bonny channel with some Directors of the awardee. But these directors are on the board of the BBC on the strength of their current appointment. The NPA is chair of this JV by virtue of its ownership of 60 per cent shareholding in the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and our directors do not have any private interests in the company.

“The other thing to say is that the company that has continued to promote this extensive blackmail of the NPA is part of the consortium whose contract was terminated for having claimed to execute works of $34.6 million in the Calabar Channel out of which $12.5 million has been paid without evidence of work done. The Nigerian Government is currently in court with this consortium seeking for the refund of the authority’s $12.5 million for work claimed to have been done without evidence,” it stated.

The NPA urged Nigerians to disregard this attempt to drag it in the mud by an organisation, “which is surely still dazed by our audacity to terminate the Calabar Channel contract and take them to court for the refund of monies collected.”
The NPA pledged its commitment to transparent operations for the ultimate benefit of the Nigerian economy and thank all Nigerians for their support.