Calabar Dredging: After Over $150m Over-Sight, Lawmakers Advocate Fresh Contract Bid
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Morally decadent, self centred, rogue lawmakers who since 2006 have approved over USD150million for the dredging of Calabar Port have kicked started a fresh wave of propaganda aimed at edging its counterpart rogue federal executive council (FEC) to consider a fresh contract for the self same endless pit dredging of the Calabar Port.
Between 2006 and 2014, successive FEC and National Assembly (NASS) presented three different project proposals for the dredging of the port, to which funds were separately allocated under controversial circumstances, beginning with the bids and selection processes; through execution that ended in fiasco.
Under the watch of our state actors and political figures, majority of who are still active in public offices, the different projects wobbled and fumbled under guided collective supervision believed to have been programmed to fail.
Thus the Calabar port dredging has been an open secret of a convoluted, winding and duplicitous state control project, wired with a predetermined misappropriation machine; as one of the biggest financial drainpipes since the return to democratic rule.
The House of Representatives which advocated the fresh move for the re-award of contract for the port’s dredging also introduced a religious selling point for the Federal Government (FG) to ensure that the current proposed contract is awarded to a ‘reputable company’.
The House of Representatives didn’t stop there; they also put on the apparels of angels and urged the federal government to tie the proposed contract to a time frame. This was aside calling on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to supervise the project and ensure that standard depth is established to enable larger vessels to berth at the port. Fantastic!
Absolutely well meaning, the House mandated its Committee on Ports and Harbours to “investigate the contracts awarded in 2006 and 2014, respectively, with a view to ensuring that all factors militating against complete dredging of the Calabar Seaport are resolved.”
Yes, with a view to ensuring that past mistakes are not repeated, that was where the lawmakers drew the curtain. The House abstained from seeking to investigate the prior contracts with a view to recovering contract funds diverted and misappropriated, and prefer to preside over a fresh contract approval, without bringing to justice all those involved in the earlier contracts scam. Isn’t that vigorous, absolutely effervescent and savvy parliamentary business?
And who can really blame Nigerian lawmakers who think that the ordinary Nigerians are stupid, unimaginative and bereft of critical thinking, and who thus can afford to pull the wool over the citizens’ eyes anytime they so wish, as is the case with this preposterous, criminally prefabricated port dredging contract.
Let us hurry past their especially clever submission and resolutions which was unanimously carried and adopted following the kind motion by Hon. Alex Egbona, Member of the House at its plenary on Tuesday, titled ‘Call to Complete the Dredging of the Calabar Seaport.’
According to Egbona, quick completion of the Calabar Seaport will help to decongest the Lagos ports and reduce the hardship of waiting for hours to clear goods. Oh what helpful legislative thoughts!
Relying heavily on his sermon on the mount to a highly religious, docile and permissive Nigerians, Hon. Egbona went memory lane to paint the beautiful picture of the Calabar Port which served as the first port of export in cash crops dating back to 1950s, when the port was privately operated by the likes of John Holts and shipping lines at different time until December 1969 when the Federal Government took it over.
The amiable lawmaker horn his honest intentions when he declared that the House is concerned that Calabar Channel Management, the last contractor to handlle the project has failed to deliver. “The port is yet to be dredged till date”, he said.
Rather than raising the motion on how the funds allocated should be recovered as a necessary legislative instrument to end the vicious cycle, Hon. Egbona embarked on prior historical accounts, characteristically full of force and furry, but lacking substance.
According to him, consequent upon the takeover of the Calabar Port, its development, modernisation and expansion was undertaken by the third National Development Plan of 1975–1980 and commissioned on June 9, 1979, by the military regime led by General Olusegun Obasanjo.
The lawmaker further recalled that there had been diverse government proclamations on the dredging of the port dating back to the regimes of General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha before the baton was passed to the civilian actors, noting “but no tangible thing had been done to rehabilitate the port.”
“The House is also aware that in 2006, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration awarded a contract for the dredging of the port to Messrs Jan De Nul and Van Oord at a cost of $56m but abandoned the projects in a protracted moribund state.
“The House is further aware that in 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan initiated the Calabar Channel Management, a Joint Venture company between the Nigerian Ports Authority and a consortium of companies led by Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Limited with a mandate to dredge the port.”
Then came the parliament of owls decision to re-award the contract, they will monitor jointly with the presidency and co-supervise; at mouth watering dividends.
Who are those remotely and immediately involved in the past contracts? Why did the past contracts fail, and why the owlish silence to let the former contractors walk away with the contract funds?
Also, while are other sets of interested groups falling over themselves to propose new contracts, under a conspiracy of silence to whitewash the records of the former contractors? Are there ugly secrets of entanglements?