Heads to roll in NPA over $56m Calabar dredging contract •Workers jittery as new MD begins probe

Dr Dakuku Peterside

Investigations have revealed that some workers of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) have developed cold feet over the decision by the new Managing Director, Ms Hadiza Balla Usman to revisit and probe the botched $56m Calabar Port Channel dredging Contract awardd in 2006.

According to findings, some of the workers of the agency were in the know as to how the contract got bungled despite the fact that so much money was spent on it.

According to an impeccable source in the agency who declined not to have his name in print, “Some of our top management staff, past and present, were in the know as to why that contract failed. We even heard that some of them connived with the contractor, Calabar Channel Management (CCM) to siphoned billion in Naira through that contract.

“That was why the dredging never took place. It was a cash cow for many of them. Some have retired, some have even died, and some are still in service. Those still in service have started running from pillar-to-post to save their jobs and avoid prosecution. But with the change mantra of this new management, i am very sure the long hands of the law will catch up with them.”

The new NPA MD made the comment about probing the Calabar Channel dredging contract at a press briefing with journalists at the end of her 2-days familiarisation tour of port facilities in Calabar, Cross Rivers State.

The MD said she had already met with the Calabar Channel Management (CCM) Company demanding for the hydro graphic report and a full data on the status of the contract. She observed that many of the operators at the Calabar? Port had shut down their operations due to the shallow channel which had impeded bigger vessels from berthing at the port.

“I have informed the management that we are going to have technical sessions next week to determine the level of dredging said to have been done,” she said.

“We are looking at the dredging critically, some of the money we have spent on capital dredging is not translating in the amount of money we are spending on maintenance dredging.

“The cost of maintenance should not be that high, we are asking for full data. it’s time we flashed our light on capital dredging and maintenance dredging and why we spend so much money and where it is going to.

“We have requested for the hydro-graphic service carried out from the onset, the documents will facilitate us in determining the way forward around Calabar Channel management. We believe that there is a critical need to resolve this issue so that the draft can be made deeper and we can have more vessels coming into Calabar.

“We looked backwards to see what went wrong as relating to capital and maintenance dredging and indeed the works that Calabar Channel Management was said to have embarked upon in 2015,” Hadiza Bala Usman stated.

It will be recalled that in 2006, the $56 million contract for the dredging of Calabar Port Channel was awarded. The contract remain uncompleted 10 years after even after the Federal Government awarded another contract in November 2014 at N20 billion to complete the project. Specifically, the contract was awarded at the initial sum of N3 billion in 1996, but it was later re-awarded in 2006 at $56 million. The contract which was signed by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) and the Calabar Channel Management, was for the port to be dredged up to 9.8 metres.