The Senate on Wednesday began a probe into the $3bn allegedly spent by the Nigerian Ports Authority on the dredging of Lagos, Bonny and Calabar water channels.
The lawmakers mandated the Senate Committee on Marine Transport to investigate the “dredging activities, books and records” of the NPA and the three contracted companies, in each of which the authority holds 60 per cent stake.
They are Lagos Channel Management Limited, Bonny Channel Company Limited, and the Calabar Channel Management Company Limited.
The move followed a motion moved by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) and co-sponsored by five others at the plenary on Wednesday.
The motion was titled, ‘Senate‘s Intervention to Urgently Stop Monumental Financial Recklessness and Economic Waste by the Nigerian Ports Authority Under Its Joint Ventures with Lagos Channel Management Limited, Bonny Channel Management Company Limited and Calabar Channel Management Company Limited.’
In the motion, Omo-Agege decried that despite being joint venture contracts, NPA was still spending more on the dredging projects.
He said, “The Senate is worried that although these JVs are supposed public-private partnerships conceived to reduce financial burdens on the Federal Government, the NPA has expended over $1bn and $2bn, respectively, on LCM and BCC from 2005 to date, while significant dredging is yet to commence on the Calabar channel; notwithstanding that it is an economic gateway to the North-Central and North-East geo-political zones of the country.”
Omo-Agege alleged that NPA had “failed, refused and/or neglected” to ensure the JVs’ compliance with the Marine Environment (Sea Dumping) Regulations 2012 made pursuant to the Merchant Shipping Act 2007; the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters 1972, otherwise called the ‘London Dumping Convention,’ and the 1996 Protocol to the London Dumping Convention.
He pointed out that there were no dumpsites for the management of hazardous dredged wastes removed from the Lagos, Bonny and Calabar navigation channels, thereby leading to sustained severe pollution of Nigeria’s marine ecosystem.
Reacting to the development, NPA said it welcomed the decision of the senate to look into the activities of its joint venture enterprises.
Ibrahim Nasiru, the Principal Manager, Public Affairs of NPA quoted the Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, as saying that the agency had nothing to hide.
In a press statement, Nasir said on assumption of duty, Usman’s administration identified the challenges at the authority and took “immediate steps” to address them.
She said as part of the processes for the dredging contracts, an advertisement for expressions of interest for “Consultancy Services for Dredging and Channel Design Optimisation Studies” was placed in newspapers in October 2016 (Public Notice No 3957).
This, according to the statement, was an international competitive bidding.
She explained that at the moment, three companies have been pre-qualified for the assignment with request for proposals (RFP) already issued towards the conclusion of the process for the award of contracts.
The statement added that the studies, when completed, would provide accurate information on the depth and siltation levels of the channels and ultimately, guide the NPA on its next line of immediate and future actions on the channels.
“The studies will additionally provide a comprehensive review of the dredging practices currently adopted for the management of Bonny/Port Harcourt channel, the Calabar channel and Lagos channel and to recommend ways in which these could be optimised with a view to enhancing dredging efficiency,” the statement read.
“A comprehensive review of the existing channel layout and recommendations on how the layouts can be optimised for current and projected vessel traffic in each of the pilotage districts.
“As part of the optimisation studies, it is recognised that the consultant will undertake further in-depth studies on hydrodynamic modelling, sedimentation modelling, navigation simulation studies and navigational risk assessments amongst others.”
The statement said NPA discovered that the cost of dredging of the channels had increased on a yearly basis in the past and that the study would provide guidance on specific measures to take to save cost.
The agency assured stakeholders of its readiness to collaborate with other agencies of government to ensure transparency in the execution of government business and work in the best interest of Nigeria always.
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