A civil society group, Cadrell Advocacy Centre (CAC), has accused the Nigerian Ports Authority Plc of awarding the dredging contract for the Escravos Channel to a firm convicted in 2012 by the Swiss government.
At a public hearing jointly held by the House of Representatives Committees on Public Procurement and Ports, Harbours and Waterways on Thursday, CAC said NPA’s action violated Section 16 (8 E and F) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
CAC’s Director, Mr. Evans Ufeli, said: “It is a notorious fact that documents available at the Swiss Embassy reveal that there was an investigation by the office of the Attorney-General, Department of International Affaire, Switzerland, that Dredging International Services Limited/Dredging International Services Cyprus (both subsidiaries of Deme Group Belgium) and some officials of NPA were alleged to have been involved in a bribe-for-contract scandal of $20million and subsequently convicted on the 2nd of May, 2012 and fined one million Swiss Francs, by the court for bribing Nigerian officials.
“As reported by Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an international magazine, the NPA awarded dredging contracts worth $70,000 each year to Dredging International Services, without competitive bidding, as required by Nigerian laws.
“And till date, this convicted company is believed to have won jobs worth at least N717 billion and $2.280 billion from NPA.”
Mr. Ufeli called on the House to invoke its powers under sections 88 and 89 of the constitution to blacklist and disqualify Dredging International Services Limited and any convicted company from bidding for or executing contracts in Nigeria.
However, Mr. Franklin Peterside, a legal representative of Dredging International Services Nigeria Limited, claimed that there is no relationship between Dredging International Services Nigeria Limited and the convicted company, which was registered in Cyprus.
The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and NPA were also accused by a failed bidder, Dredging Atlantic Limited, of short-changing it. Mr. Adeyemo Abiodun, the company’s Managing Director, said his organisation was frozen out without due process.
Mr. Woke Oke, Chairman of the committee ordered the NPA and BPP to submit all tendered documents in respect to the award of the contract.
In her response, Ms. Hadiza Usman, NPA Managing Director, maintained that the parastatal adhered to the Public Procurement Act in awarding the contracts. She also claimed that necessary legal actions had been taken in respect of the exercise.
Mr. Mamman Ahmadu, the BPP Director-General, said the parastatal was not involved in the process, as it never received a formal invitation from NPA Plc.
According to a June 5, 2017 article by Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the corruption flow began in 2007 when NPA Plc refused to pay the company $43 million for dredging the Bonny channel and river, a job it had already completed.