story by crossriverwatch admin
The Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) has asked the Federal Government to probe the $56 million (about N9 billion) spent on the dredging of the Calabar Port Channel in 2006.
Speaking on the heels of report of a fresh attempt to award contract for the dredging of the same channel by the Federal Ministry of Transport, President of MARAN, Bolaji Akinola, in a statement issued in Lagos and obtained by crossriverwatch, over the weekend said government should not award the contract until it has probed the $56 million expended on the same exercise in 2006.
“Contract for the dredging of the 84-Kilometre Calabar port channel was awarded six years ago. Dredging work was said to have been carried out, but it is clear that the exercise has become a bottomless pit where millions of dollars were poured in without results. It seems that Calabar Port dredging has become a sort of conduit pipe where money is siphoned with impunity,” Akinola said.
Contract for the dredging of the Calabar Port Channel was awarded to two foreign dredging companies. The two companies got the entire length of the channel divided between them by the federal government. While one of them was paid $26 million to dredge Kilometre 0 – 46, the other got $30 million to dredge Km 46 – 84.
According to Bolaji, both companies were asked to scoop out 25 million cubic meters of sand to achieve an overall draught of eight metres.
“It is rather unfortunate that the two dredging companies started work in October 2006 and demobilized in December without accomplishing the mission, but got all the money collected,” the MARAN President said.
He urged the government to set up a probe panel to find out what went wrong with the initial contract and prosecute those behind what he called “the monumental waste of public funds.”
The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, had few days ago assured businessmen in Calabar and environs that the issues surrounding the dredging of the Calabar River will soon be sorted out.
He said that government was not only going to dredge the channel, it was also looking for a channel manager that will be able to manage it when it is dredged, just like the Lagos and the Onne channels. Umar stated this when he received the Executive Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke his office, in Abuja recently.
Umar said to show the government’s commitment to the development of the region, the contract for the award of the contract for the feasibility studies of the coastal rail lines would soon be awarded to new contractor, adding that the job is presently undergoing due processes. Earlier in his remarks, Imoke had asked the Minister to grant the Calabar port special concessions on port charges.
Imoke said that the operators of the Calabar Port were also willing to make some concessions and discounts, especially in pilot fees if the port management would do the same. He solicited for the intervention of the Federal Government to accord Calabar Port a free port status. This, according to him, will make the port more user-friendly.
Imoke also asked for the assistance of the Federal Ministry of Transport in the actualization of the construction of a rail line linking Calabar to the North East part of the country, because this will open the region to further development.
He asked for the assistance of the Federal Government in actualising the coastal rail line linking the South – South states of the country.
While responding, Umar assured the governor that talks were on-going with other stakeholders (ministries and agencies) to actualise the request for the free zone.
The minister also informed Imoke that feasibility studies will be carried out on other areas in Nigeria for high speed rail linkage, that some investors have already shown interest in investing in the rail system modernisation project.
The Minister said further that he had dispatched a letter to office of the Governor, requesting for the detailed report of the feasibility study of the proposed Calabar to North East rail linkage.
It will be recalled that a crossriverwatch opinion article “Cross River – Beyond the Oil Wells” had enumerated the light rail line and the dredging of Calabar port as two principal developments that will free up the potentials of the State for maximum utilization.
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