The Nigerian Ports Authority NPA has admitted that some of its members of staff were truly involved in the one million Swiss Francs scandal rocking one of its Joint Venture Partners, Dredging International Services, a Swiss firm.
This is even as the agency said it is awaiting further directives on the matter from the Attorney General of the Federation on whether to continue or discontinue with the contract.
Dredging International Services, which has been in a Joint Venture partnership agreement with NPA for over 10 years, is one of the technical partners of Bonny Channel Management Limited (BCML), which manages the nation’s water channels in the eastern ports under a public-private partnership.
Recall that the company was recently indicted and punished by a Swiss Court over its involvement in one million Swiss Francs bribery scandal in the course of its JV partnership with NPA and was made to refund 30 million Swiss Francs ($20million) to the Swiss Government as punishment.
Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, who fielded questions from select maritime journalists during an interactive session in Lagos on Monday, admitted that some members of staff of the organisation truly asked for and received financial inducements from the company.
According to her, the company, Dredging International Services, which also admitted that it gave financial inducements to some senior members of staff of the NPA, said it had to do that because its invoices were deliberately being delayed, which negatively affected the operations of the company and so had no option than to succumb to their demands.
“You know the Swiss Court punished the company for giving financial inducements in order to be paid because the Court insisted that such excuse was not acceptable. But when we checked, we also discovered that some NPA staff truly demanded and received such inducements”
“This is bad and condemnable because it rubs off negatively on all of us as a nation and as a people because we discovered that their payment invoices were truly delayed sometimes for six months. But one would ask, why would anyone delay a payment invoice for as long as six months, that was really bad”, the MD said regrettably.
On whether the NPA would terminate the company’s Joint Venture partnership contract, Bala-Usman said that the authority has already written the office of the Attorney General of the Federation AGF and Minister of Justice for advice and direction on the matter.
She also disclosed that the authority is currently expecting a response from the AGF anytime soon, which would determine the next line of action, but also hinted that the joint venture partnership would continue to subsist pending the directive of the AGF.
It was further gathered that the authority is considering handing over the indicted members of staff to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, for prosecution.
On efforts by the management to fight corruption at the nation’s seaports, she stated that, “For every corrupt practice that we identify, we forward to the EFCC to investigate and determine what prosecution process they will embark upon. When we identify a case whereby there is lack of clarity on the role of government or there is a seeming disadvantage that has been provided to the Nigerian people, we forward to the AGF to provide legal guidance on how we can exit some of such partnership agreements”.
“We have also discovered that a lot of the corruption practices within the port operation are mostly linked to certain contractual obligations by the NPA whereby the Federal Government is shortchanged”.