By Chibuzo Ukaibe, Ejike Ejike and Yusuf Babalola |
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday called for the immediate sacking, probe and prosecution of the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, as well as the former managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, over the alleged looting of over N165billion in the port agency.
The opposition party also asked the transport minister to come clean on his reported connection in the alleged involvement of his wife, Mrs. Edith Amaechi, in the exposed N48 billion contract scam currently rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
LEADERSHIP reports that the NPA boss was last week suspended from office by President Muhammadu Buhari following a recommendation from Amaechi after an audit report alleged that the port agency failed to remit N165 billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federal government.
Meanwhile, Amaechi has inaugurated a 10-man panel of inquiry to probe the NPA from 2016 to date.
The PDP, however, said the party is opposed to a move to use an administrative panel of enquiry instituted by Amaechi to investigate the allegation, insisting that both the minister and the former NPA managing director should be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation and possible prosecution.
PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said the foul stench of corruption oozing from the NPA, the NDDC and other agencies of government in the last six years had shown that the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) had become the cash cows and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) of greedy leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and their cronies in government in their unbridled looting of our patrimony on President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch.
The PDP statement reads: “Our party asserts that the fact that it took the minister a clear six years (2016 to 2021) to query the NPA managing director over the alleged looting of N165 billion unremitted operating surplus of the agency, which is under his purview, is suspect and raises public belief that he (Amaechi) only acted apparently to shield himself after indicting audit documents had already been exposed.
“This is in addition to reports from the office of auditor general which also unearthed the looting of unremitted deductions to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) amounting to N3,667,750,470, $148,845,745.04, Euro 4,891,449.50 and £252,682.14 under the suspended NPA managing director and Amaechi’s ministerial supervision.
“The audit report also exposed another N15.18 billion allegedly siphoned through shady Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects by the NPA, an agency under Amaechi’s ministerial purview.”
The PDP, however, said it rejects an attempt at a cover-up in the guise of an Administrative Panel of Enquiry recommended by the transport minister to investigate the alleged NPA fraud.
The party insisted that both the minister and the former NPA managing director should be handed over to the EFCC for investigation and possible prosecution.
“Moreover, Nigerians are appalled that fingers of fraud allegation are also pointing to the wife of the transport minister in a N48 billion contract scam under the sacked NDDC’s managing director, Nelson Bambraifa, who was reportedly nominated into that position by the minister of transportation, Amaechi, but fired on allegations of corruption.
“The PDP describes as unpardonable that the humongous sum in the NDDC contract scam involving the wife of the transport minister was allegedly siphoned under the guise of offering training to unsuspecting youths in the area.
“It is indeed disgraceful that under the APC that promised to fight and end corruption in our country, the public space is awash with revelations of sharing of government revenues among concubines, wives, girlfriends and family members of top APC leaders. This can only happen under the watch of an absentee president, who also condones corruption,” the party said.
The 10-man panel to probe the NPA from 2016 to date.
is chaired by Suleiman Auwalu, director (Maritime Services) and Ben Omogo, director organisational design and development, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) as co-chairman, while Gabriel Fan, deputy director (Legal Services), Federal Ministry of Transportation, will act as secretary.
Other members of the panel are Dr. Hussani Adamu, director, procurement; Mrs. Blessing Azorbo, director, Legal Services (OHCSF); Mrs. Mercy Ilori, director, Transport Planning Coordination; Mr. Muhiy-deen Awwal, director, Human Resources Management, and three staff members of Human Resources Management as secretariat staff.
The minister, while inaugurating them, said their terms of reference include: “Examine and investigate the administrative policies and strategies adopted by the managing director of NPA and confirm compliance with extant laws and rules from 2016 to date; examine and investigate issues leading to the termination of pilotage and other contracts of NPA and confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court rulings and presidential directives.
“Examine and investigate compliance with the communication channel as obtained in the public service; examine and investigate the procurement of contracts from 2016 to date; come up with suggestions and advice that would strengthen the operations of NPA and forestall such occurrences in future, and any other matter that may be necessary in the course of the assignment.”
Hadiza Bala Usman’s suspension may be connected to the alleged unremittance of N165, 320,962,697 operating surplus, among others.
Amaechi had, in a letter dated on March 4, 2021 and addressed to the president, requested approval to audit the NPA account from 2016 to date.
Part of the letter entitled “Remittance of operating surplus to the consolidated revenue fund account (CRF) by the NPA from 2016 – date” and sighted by LEADERSHIP stated that “it has been observed from the records submitted by the Budget Office of the Federation that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from year 2016 to 2020 has been far short of the amount due for actual remittance
“In view of the above I wish to suggest that the financial account of the activities of NPA be investigated for the period 2016 to 2020 to ascertain the true financial position and the outstanding unremitted balance of N165,320,962,697.”
In a related development, Amaechi has asked the administrative panel of inquiry set up to investigate the management of the NPA to examine and investigate issues leading to the termination of pilotage contract handled by the Integrated Logistics Services Nigeria Limited (Intels) and other contracts of NPA to confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court rulings and presidential directives.
The NPA management had in September 2020 terminated a boat operation contract being handled by Intels Nigeria Limited, INL, a company former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had shares before he divested his shares earlier in the year.
In a marine information notice dated September 1, the Lagos Pilotage District (LPD) of the NPA said the service, hitherto handled by Intels, has been terminated.
The notice was signed by Daniel Hosea, Harbour Master of the LPD.
According to the notice, the LPD directed all service boat owners and operators to do transactions directly in each of the Port Complex of the NPA.
“Every Service Boat movement must be reported and booked at the office of the Harbour Master of the District, where Pilotage Chits and Master Declaration Forms will be issued and returned after every movement,” the notice said.
“Every enquiry on Service Boat movement should be directed to the office of the Port Manager of the Ports/Harbour Master, Pilotage District.”
However, while inaugurating the administrative panel that was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the activities of the suspended MD of NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman yesterday, the transport minister said the term of reference included the examination and investigation of issues leading to the termination of pilotage and other contracts of NPA.
The panel is also to examine and investigate the administrative policies and strategies adopted by the managing director of NPA and confirm compliance with extant laws and rules from 2016 till date.