A debt of over $15million approximately (N7billion) coupled with a probe by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, are currently stalling the controversial Calabar port channel dredging project.
Disclosing this to a joint Committee of both Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Maritime Transport and National Council on Privatization,the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala -Usman said that she was not sure if dredging was actually carried on the port channel.
Usman told the joint Committees that the authority had contracted a consultant to ascertain if actual dredging was done or not, adding that until the exercise is completed the agency would not be able to make any payment.
She also said that the authority would have to wait for the outcome of both the EFCC and NPA’s internal investigation before any payment could be made.
She explained to the Committees that the contractor for the dredging of the channel went to contract a consultant to carry an audit exercise of its dredging activities at the Calabar port.
She was of the opinion that Nigerglobal cannot be paying an audit firm to audit its activities and expect to be faulted in any way.
Usman said “There is an EFCC investigation on the Calabar port channel dredging project just as the Ministry of Transport has also directed the management of the NPA to carry out its own internal findings.
“The Calabar port channel dredging has become very controversial, there is a need to tread carefully on the matter. Besides, NPA owns 60 percent of the joint venture company known as the Calabar Channel Management Limited.
NPA is driving the need to stimulate growth in the eastern part of the country and Calabar is very key to this initiative through the dredging of the Calabar port channel.
“We will not make a payment of over 15million Dollars until we are sure that dredging work was actually carried out. There was an audit firm that audited the dredging of the channel and was also being paid by the dredging company Nigerglobal, meaning that there was a conflict of interest.
She said,“We will not hold Calabar port hostage, our consultant will find out if actual dredging was done or not. Internally, we will ensure that everything that has to do with the Calabar dredging was done following due process”.
Efforts to speak with the Managing Director of Calabar Channel Management Company, Mr. Van Bert and the Chairmen of Nigerglobal, Senator Hope Uzodimma were futile.