The N34.8billion River Niger dredging contract which the late President Umaru Musa Yar�dua signed with five foreign companies and billed to be completed in 2009 is yet to be rounded off, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY can reveal.
Part of project design by the companies involved, Leadership Sunday learnt, is shoddy and “needs reviewing”.
It was also gathered that the navigational equipment used by the contractors for the project were discovered in 2009 to be inferior by Anatrade, a marine equipment contractor, but were approved by the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), an agency under the Ministry of Transport.
Besides, the contract review is expected to gulp at least N10billion, a reliable source at the ministry told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY on Friday.
Despite the billions of naira doled out by the government to consultants, the design of the contract, it was learnt, needs redrawing and it could take the second quarter of 2012 to complete. By 2012, the dredging would have extended to four years from the one-year agreement initially arrived at between the federal government and the five contractors on the job.
Several efforts to reach the acting managing director of NIWA, Mrs. CFO Ezenwa, to comment on the issue failed.
But Mr. Kingsley Agha, the spokesman of the minister of transportation, confirmed that part of the project, was yet to be completed.
“Yes, if you were told that a part of the contract, which is Baro in Niger State, is yet to be completed, then it is true. We are even going there on Thursday (this week),” he said.
He, however, declined to comment on whether the contract sum was reviewed upwards by N10billion or whether the design by the contractors for the project required an overhaul.
On February 11, 2008, the federal government signed a N34.8billion dredging contract. The project was to cover about 572kilometre stretch from Warri in Delta State to Baro in Niger State. The contract was awarded through the then minister of transport, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke.
The dredging contract was divided into two sections and awarded to five companies and billed to be completed in 2009. A maintenance agreement of two years was also signed by all parties.
A breakdown of the contract shows that the 154km project will expand from Warri, Delta State, to the bifurcation of Forcados and River Nun (Bayelsa State), which was awarded to Fung Tai Nigeria Limited at N4,836,943,125, while 116km bifurcation of Forcados and River Nun to Onitsha, Anambra State, was awarded for dredging to International Limited at N3,889,174,89b.
The dredging of the 118km Onitsha to Ida in Kogi was awarded to Van Oord at N12,545,469,550 and the 76km from Jamata to Baro awarded to Williams Lloyds Tech Company at the cost of N3, 665,261,250-
The consultants for the designs were Royal Haskoning, N156,274,609,06, Jayuda International Limited, N126,846,395, 76, Dredging & Marine Consultants Nigeria Limited, N312,535,645,95, Enpian Group, N395,636,292,59 and Aims Consultants Ltd with N19,939,886, 87, respectively.
But after one year, when the contract was to be completed, the Senate and the House of Representatives were inundated with petitions that the contractors were using inferior equipment for the project, and were far from completing it.
On November 26, 2009, the House of Representatives Committee on Marine Transport started a probe into an alleged scam rocking the multi-billion naira contract.A petition by Anatrade Limited, an indigenous marine equipment contractor, accused Van Oord Nigeria Limited, a major contractor for the dredging job, of mounting substandard navigational buoys in the river, an anomaly the petitioner warned the federal government to correct now or risk navigational mishaps in the future
Anatrade told the committee that the “can-shaped” or “conical” buoys used by the contractor would not help ships to properly manouvre in the river, as such buoys, the petitioner told the committee, would be swirling off points, and may likely sink later and mislead ships coming to berth.
The petitioner stressed that the flat-top, conical bouys were not suitable for the fast-flowing River Niger and must be promptly replaced with suitable ones.
It was learnt that instead of installing the Standard Bouy 104, which is designed for fast waters like River Niger, the contractor went for the cheaper IFWB 760 model, which is usually used for lakes and stagnant waters.
The petition which was heard by the Hon. CID Maduabum-led Marine Transport sub-committee on Bills is the first one since the dreging project was awarded.
Sub-committee chairman Maduabum assured the petitioner that the committee would see to the end the issues raised by his petition, as he stated that the House was determined to see that every kobo spent on the project was not wasted.
In his presentation at the investigative hearing, the chief executive officer of Anatrade Limited, Mr Chukwuemeka Kaduna Obianozie, called the attention of committee members to the sharp differences in the features of both navigational aids, as well as the price variations.
Obianozie who spoke through Greg Okpara, area manager, East, of the firm, disclosed that while the SB 104 is 1818 millimeters for the can top, the IFWB 760 is 1300 millimetres.
“The overall length of the Tideland SB 104 is 1818mm for the top and 204mm for the con top, while the IFWB 760 is 1300mm, a staggering difference of 518mm. This is a gross breach of visibility and navigation to River Niger crafts especially in a river like Niger with its undulating bed. What this difference translates to is that the focal plain of the buoy as conceived by the consultants has been badly altered.
“The SB 104 shape is complex with the round side facing the direction of the river current, while IFWB 760 is rounded all through. This again shows that the designer does not make fast water buoys as the shape of their buoys do not meet the standards of the International Association of Lighthouse Authority (IALA).
“The round side of the buoy is conceived to act as current receiver for rapid rolling or pitching movement occasioned by wave or wind while the flat side acts as the spreader that breaks the whirling current from turning the buoy. Had ITI been a standard bearer on bouys, certainly IALA production processes would not have allowed such a grave error.
“All round shaped bouys are used to mark harbours and lakes where the water is more stable and calm with less current not up to 4, 5, 6 knots and above.
“The SB 104 has a diameter of 873mm while the ITO alternative has diameter of 760mm, a clear 113mm. the SB 104 diameter has a purpose of containing adequate cross-link to achieve a safe working load 1000ibs at a ratio of 4:1. This is outright negation of international standard practices,” he stated.
Mr. Obianozie, who insisted that the terms of contract did not give room for variations, said he was surprised that the contractor preferred the cheap navigational aids to the standard type suitable for fast water like River Niger.
“Assuming someone is contemplating changing the specification of the buoy, has the following questions been answered: Is the money for the procurement of the originally recommended buoy lacking in the project? Are the original specifications obsolete and production discontinued? Did the consultants who put the design and features of SB 104 make mistake or displayed gross incompetence and if the consultant are deficient, will they be made to pay back what they were paid?”
However, both the project manager of VanOord Nigeria Limited, Tim Helbo, and general manager, engineering of Nigeria Inland Waterways NIWA, Engineer Mike Dike, made efforts to convince the committee members that the buoys in question would serve the intended purposes.