By Sandra Chukwunyere
In a bid to ensure effective management of public funds and curb wastages in project execution, the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi had requested and called for the capacity building of staff of the ministry to start executing major projects that were over the years contracted to the Chinese at the cost of over fifty Billion Naira annually.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani stated this in condemnation of THISDAY newpaper publication onTuesday, 11th May, 2021 that the feud between Amaechi and the suspended Ms. Hadiza Usman was because of the later’s refusal to grant the Ministers request that “two Chinese companies are selected to manage Bonny and Warri Channels” contracts.
Dr. Ajani described the THISDAY publication an unfounded and malicious allegations, designed to hoodwink the Nigerian public and denigrate the person and standing of the Minister in the process.
He said that contrary to the media publication, the Honourable Minister had actually been the one clamouring for termination of the contracts to the Chinese companies which he did through different avenues including in writings to the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.
He explained that in one of the letters dated 2nd February, 2021 with No. T0160/S.30/T4E/T2/61 and titled “REQUEST FOR INFORMATION ON THE EXPIRED CONTRACTS: CHANNEL MANAGEMENT AND MANAGING AGENT CONTRACTS”, Amaechi called on “the need for NPA to procure its equipment for the service and cease from awarding any such contract”.
The letter had “requested the NPA to provide the following information for the ministry’s records and further necessary action:
“The current status of the Managing Agent contract and the measures put in place to cover vacuum created as a result of expiration of the contract to prevent revenue loss to the governnment,
“The current status of the Lagos and Bonny/Port Harcourt Channel management Companies and the measures put in place to cover the gap created by the expired contracts to ensure the channels are maintained for safe navigation and efficient service delivery;
“The volume dredged annually from the channels and the depths achieved from inception management contracts to date and the amount expended;
“The number of wrecks removed annually by the Channel Management Companies from my inception of the contracts and amount spent ; and
“The total number of buoys replaced or maintained during the life span of the contract and the amount spent”.
Dr. Ajani remarked that “despite the fact that the above letter was duly received by the NPA on the same 2nd February, the Authority has not deemed it necessary till date to respond the Ministerial directives contained therein”.
Ajani pointed submitted therefore that ,”in light of the above , it is indeed difficult to reconcile THISDAY’s wild, malicious and unsupportable claim that the Honourable Minister insisted on the contracts being awarded to two Chinese Companies with the documented evidence of his position that the NPA was engaged in obvious profligacy and wastage of public funds to be spent over Fifty Billion Naira on an annual basis on contracts for which it could purchase machinery and build in-house capacity for greater long term benefits.
“It is a mark of unprofessionalism and manifest unfairness , in our opinion, that in publishing this obviously sensational and targeted story, THISDAY did not consider it necessary to contact this Ministry for it’s side of the story before rushing to press to satisfy it’s sponsors”.
It will be recalled that the transportation minister on Monday 10th May, 2021 inaugurated an Administrative Panel to investigate certain infractions within the NPA from 2016 till date.
This was in pursuant to the approval of President Mohamadu Buhari who had approved the suspension of Ms. BalA- Usman pending the outcome of the Panel’s assignment.
Dr. Ajani noted that the publication by THISDAY was not only false but also targeted at shifting public opinion from the weighty issue of abuse of office by the NPA boss.
In his words,” It is apparent that the intention of the story is to attempt to pre-empt the outcome of the Panel’s work, unduly seek to personalize a serious national issue bordering on transparency and accountability in the handling of public finances and attempt to drag the HMT into the arena of brick-bats and mud-slinging in order to force a distraction from the assignment now being undertaken by the panel”, he added.