By Oluwakemi Dauda
The crisis generated by the award of the N20 billion Calabar channel contract by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to Calabar Channel Management Limited (CCM), a joint venture of NPA and a firm owned by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator is not over, it was learnt.
Some of the firms that bided for the job, it was gathered, have contracted their lawyers to challenge the “intrigues and scandals” that led to the cancellation of the procurement process of the contract by the NPA and its subsequent award in defiance of due process.
The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), it was learnt, may be summoned to court over the contract.
Sources close to some of the firms said they were considering their lawyers because they considered the method adopted by the NPA as unlawful, adding that they may institute a legal action against the two government agencies.
Calabar Channel Management (CCM) Limited, the firms alleged, was not subjected to a pre-qualification test to ascertain its competence as required by the law before being awarded the contract.
A senior official of one of the affected firms who craved anonymity said: “The law stipulates that a procurement of such magnitude must pass through the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for a certificate of “No Objection” which is issued after grievances raised by the contending parties have been addressed.
But, through a letter in the last week of August, NPA notified bidders of government’s decision to nullify the re-procurement process for the channel in ‘public interest’.
“We learnt that NPA was actually compelled by the Ministry of Transport to discontinue with the re-procurement process to avoid jeopardizing the lawmaker’s chances of clinching the job and that is why we are considering the idea of taking the matter to court in the interest of the nation.
“It was gathered that the senator had about three years ago, latched on the failed 2010 procurement exercise to out-plot all those vying for the job. Apparently convinced that his firm stood no chance in a competitive bid, he decided to exploit his relationship with the President to bring his dream to fruition.
“He came up with the idea of a joint venture between his company and the NPA. Armed with this, he approached the President to seek his assistance in making this a reality. The President was said to have been favorably disposed to this but asked him to first explore the possibility of getting a company with dredging capabilities to partner with.
“Help finally came in form of a Presidential Approval, which resulted in the formation of CCM. However, to make it seem as though the Transport Ministry initiated the move, the minister had to write the President asking for approval to form a consortium for the dredging of the channel which immediately received the President’s nod.”
Officials of the aggrieved firms also said NPA’s equity participation in CCM is only 53 per cent while the senator’s firm has 47 per cent. This, according to them, is unlike other arrangements in which NPA has interest and where the profit sharing formula is 60 per cent for NPA and 40 per cent for the private firm.
“We the aggrieved bidders are insisting that the right thing still needs to be done in respect of the Calabar Port or we will head to court to resolve the matter.
“Only the six bidders that were pre-qualified for the 2010 exercise deserve to be considered for the job. This is more so as the dredging of the Calabar channel has served as a conduit pipe in the last 20 years,” they said.
Contacted, a member of the NPA’s board who does not want his name mentioned said the joint venture deal was sealed without reference to the NPA board and this, he said, explains why its chairman and the current PDP Board of Trustee chairman, Chief Tony Anenih was against the award of the contract to CCM.
The board, he said, was infuriated by the deal that its chairman countered it in a petition he sent to the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar.
“In the protest letter, Chief Anenih on behalf of the board warned of the dire consequences of awarding such a huge contract to a company, which to us, “has no reference to past jobs done”.
“Anenih also detailed the irregularities that characterized the creation of CCM including 16 flaws which the Ministry of Justice pointed out in respect of the joint venture agreement and which still appeared in the final document,” the board member said.
Findings revealed that the public outcry that greeted the creation of CCM and the inclusion of Calabar Port and Ibaka Deep- Sea Port has forced CCM to remove Ibaka Port from the joint venture agreement.
The document communicating CCM’s resolution on Ibaka Deep-sea Port to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) was signed by one Odutan Olumide Abayomi and the senator.
It reads: “At the extra-ordinary General Meeting of the above -mentioned company duly convened and held at its registered office on the 12th of July 2013, the following resolutions were proposed and duly passed as follows:
That the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company be altered as follows:
That all the clauses i.e. 3(a) (b) (c) (d) (f) and (h) where the word Ibaka Deep Sea Port appear be removed
from the Memorandum of Association of the company.
That the articles of Association of the company be altered to reflect the above;
That a Memorandum and Articles of Association incorporating the said alterations be filed with the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja and a certified true copy of same be obtained.
Calls made to phone of the Assistant General Manager, Public Affairs, NPA, Mr Musa Iliya, were picked but not audible enough while the text message sent to his mobile phone was not replied as at the time of going to the press.
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