By Gboyega Oni
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman has said the Senate investigation into the $3billion joint venture between NPA, Lagos Channel Management, Bonny Channel Management and Calabar Channel Management was a welcomed decision.
The Senate at a plenary on Wednesday queried the NPA over alleged reckless spending of public fund to the tune of over $3 billion between 2005 and 2017 between it and the three dredging companies following a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) who accused the NPA of monumental financial recklessness and economic waste.
Perturbed by the development, the Senate resolved to investigate the allegation and mandated its Committee on Marine Transport to investigate the alleged expenditure of $3 billion by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) in a public private partnership (PPP) with the three dredging companies.
The committee is also expected to investigate the dredging activities, books and records of the NPA and the JVCs.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) accused the NPA of monumental financial recklessness and economic waste and expressed worry that although the companies were conceived to reduce financial burdens on the federal government, the NPA has spent over $1billion and $2billion on LCM and NCC respectively from 2005 to date.
“In spite of the expenditure, significant dredging is yet to commence on the Calabar channel, notwithstanding that it is an economic gateway to the North central and North-east geopolitical zones of the country.
“In continuation of NPA’s manifestly questionable and reckless financial commitments, LCM and BCM, through the NPA, have respectively requested for the sums of N23billion and N20billion in the NPA’s 2017 budget.
“The NPA has failed, refused and or neglected to ensure the JVCs’ 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 said.
Omo-Agege said that these were contraventions because there are no dump sites for the management of hazardous dredged wastes removed from the Lagos, Bonny and Calabar navigation channels, thereby leading to sustained severe pollution of the country’s marine ecosystem.
According to him, “In spite of the so far unjustified huge financial commitment of the NPA to these supposed PPP joint ventures, empirical facts, evidence and data, including current Admiralty Charts from Lloyds of London, clearly confirm that the depth profiles of the channels, particularly the Lagos and Bonny channels, remained significantly the same at 13 metres between 2005 and 2016, notwithstanding the purported claims of daily maintenance dredging of the channels by the JVs- a curious situation which should not be no matter any form of siltation.”
Usman, in a statement signed by I. S. Nasiru, a Principal Manager, Public Affairs at the Authority, explained that the current NPA administration had on assumption of duties, identified the challenge and taken immediate steps to address the unacceptable situation.
The statement explained that as part of the processes, 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.It explained that at the moment, three companies have been pre-qualified for theassignment with a request for proposals (RFP) already issued towards the conclusion of the process for the award of contracts.
The statement said further that the studies, when completed, will 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 thechannels.The studies will additionally provide:
i. 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.
ii. A comprehensive review of the existing channel layout and recommendations on how the layouts can be optimised for current andprojected vessel traffic in each of the pilotage districts.
iii 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.