The Ministry of Transportation says it objected to the award of channel management contracts by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) because it is more cost-effective to procure necessary equipment and execute the contracts in-house.
Several reports have traced the ‘cold war’ between Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation and Hadiza Bala-Usman, the suspended managing director of NPA, to the renewal of $1.5 billion channel management contracts.
Reacting to media reports, Magdalene Ajani, permanent secretary, ministry of transportation, in a statement issued on Tuesday, described the allegation that Amaechi recommended two Chinese companies to execute the contracts as a “deliberate attempt to drag the integrity of the minister in the mud.”
“It is necessary to place on record that while Channel Management contracts have been routinely awarded over the years by the Nigerian Ports Authority at a cost of between 50 and 60 billion naira on an annual basis, the Honourable Minister has adopted a firm position that the NPA should undertake the job of channel management on an in-house basis through the acquisition of the necessary machinery and professional capacity given the humongous annual sums paid out to dredging contractors by the authority,” the statement read.
“Indeed, following the expiration of the Channel Management contracts for the Lagos, Bonny and Port Harcourt Channels in 2020 and the initiation of the contractual process for the renewal of the said contracts early in 2021, the HMT on 22nd January, 2021, while responding to a request for the NPA to provide requisite details related to the proposed transactions directed in the following words:
“There is the need for NPA to know that they should purchase their own equipment and not award any contract.”
The ministry noted that documented evidence of its position on the contract was that the NPA was engaging in “obvious profligacy and wastage of public funds to be spending over fifty billion naira (N50 billion) on an annual basis on contracts for which it could purchase machinery and build in-house capacity for greater long-term benefits.”
It said the NPA did not deem it necessary to respond to the above ministerial directives.
Meanwhile, an 11-member investigative panel to probe the NPA on all contracts awarded since 2016 when Bala Usman became MD has been inaugurated.
The panel, headed by Auwal Suleiman, director of maritime services, transportation ministry, has six members from the office of the head of the civil service of the federation (OHCSF) and the remaining five from the ministry of transportation