• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

The politics of Calabar Port dredging and need for FG intervention

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The people of Cross River State have expressed disappointment over what they described as insincerity on the part of past administrations, both at the Federal and state levels in relation to the state of Calabar Port.

They complain that the first contract for the dredging of the Calabar Port was awarded by the regime of the late General Sani Abacha in 1996.

It was gathered that the contract has no evidence of execution. According to investigations, the unknown Chinese company showed up for a while and simply vanished. But the total amount of money for the project was paid or rather, never returned to government coffers.

Ten years later in 2006 under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the same contract was re-awarded to two Dutch companies- Messrs Jan-de Nul and Van Oord Limited at a total cost of $56 million. This contract suffered the same fate as both companies left contract site without completing their assignments. In order words, they abandoned the job. They simply vanished like their Chinese friends.

Yet Cross River continues to groan in pain as a result of the non-dredging of the Calabar Port by agencies of the Federal Government after third attempt.

As a result of this, Ben Ayade, on assumption of office, promised to build a deep sea-port to improve the economic fortune of the state which is referred to as a tourism destination.

The recent call by Cross River State Shippers Association on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the N20 billion Calabar Port contract is a welcome development as it is coming at the right time now that “a Daniel has come for judgment”.      Cross River State Shippers Association on July 21, 2015, had at a press briefing in Calabar, the state capital, called on the government of President Buhari to probe the N20 billion contract alleged to have been abandoned by Calabar Channel Management limited (CCM).

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) signed off this contract on behalf the Federal Government with the approval of Federal Executive Council granting it the direct authority to fund the project.                      On November 17, 2014 former President Goodluck Jonathan, represented by Namadi Sambo, the then vice president, flagged off the dredging of the Calabar port, but sadly, up till now, nothing meaningful is happening there in terms of progress of the project.                                                            Addressing journalists, President of Cross River State chapter of the Nigerian Shippers Association, Mike Ogodo, accompanied by the Vice President Ineobong Jackson and other executive members of the association, said: “It is for this reason we hereby call on management of Nigerian Ports Authority to inform Nigerians and the new administration of how much money it has disbursed to Calabar Channel Management with respect to CCM contract and for what quantum/work value.  They should tell Nigerians and the authorities how much of Nigerian tax payers’ money they have collected for the job and how much work (verifiable) they have executed”.                                                          According to Ogodo, Calabar Channel Management (CCM) is not on ground and it has not commenced dredging of Calabar port 9 months after the contract was signed. The association said it is also true that NPA has fully disbursed N20billion to Calabar Channel Management (CCM) without executing any work on site.

The association said: “This contract, unlike the two awarded in 1996 and 2006, is not doomed to bury in the mud of corruption and treasury looting”.          “After two unsuccessful dredging attempts we are convinced that a third one cannot go unchecked. We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand like the infamous ostrich. We have decided to act like adults and stakeholders and collectively ask very simple basic questions about the progress, if any, with the execution of this contract”.

When contacted on phone, Chijioke Ukadike, public relations officer of NPA, said he had no authority to speak on the matter.

According to Ogodo, “our suffering persisted as shipping activities at the port grounded to a halt and the port fell out of favour with shipping lines due to the shallowness of its access.”

 

MIKE ABANG