‘Account for 282 missing vessels in four days’

Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman

The Senate on Thursday asked the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to, in four days, account for the 282 vessels, which berthed in Nigeria’s seaports without records.

The Chairman, Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff and Marine Transport, Hope Uzodinma, told the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Usman, at an investigative hearing on Thursday to furnish the panel with details of the vessels.

The Senate had mandated the committee to probe the alleged N30tn revenue loss through Nigerian borders.

Uzodinma, who berated Usman for not honouring two earlier invitations by the committee, stated that failure to meet the four-day ultimatum would force the Senate to treat the matter as a financial crime.

He said, “We are looking for these vessels. We have the dates of arrival, the ports of discharge and the manifests. Everything is with us, but information available to us is that no money was collected by either the Nigeria Customs Service, the NPA or any other person.

“So, you have four days to do your written explanation, otherwise we will consider it a financial crime.

“There are also recent missing vessels that we discovered; I mean recent ones that happened under the new management. The NPA is the custodian of the vessels, it received the cargoes and the terminal is theirs. We want to know under whose authority the cargoes were released.”

Uzodinma, in his opening speech, said it was worrisome that leakages were costing Nigeria trillions of naira in revenue “and inversely constitute a clear and present security threat to our nation.”

“Preliminary evidence before us suggest that this is the case in all seaports. Indeed, initial evidence at our disposal clearly suggests that the port cabal had in recent memory defrauded the nation of well over N30tn.

“It is distressing to note that while our nation is undergoing an exhausting recession, a group of unpatriotic persons who brazenly constitute themselves into a cabal are determined to deepen the pains of the nation through very repugnant practices.”

The lawmaker stated that the Senate was determined to put an end to “this villainous assault on the economy” and had set out to get to the bottom of the organised crime, with future proof of ways at eradicating “this gruesome menace.”

Uzodinma added, “In doing so, we shall be minded by the reality that those who want to bleed the nation to death without remorse must be dealt with without reprieve. Consequently, all those indicted in this crime will be made to face the full wrath of the law.”