By Uche Usim
The new management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has launched a probe on the controversial $56 million Calabar Channel dredging contract to ascertain why so much was spent on the project without achieving the desired draft needed to attract bigger vessels to the port.
The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, who gave the indication at the weekend at the end of her two-day visit to Calabar port, said she had since instituted a probe into the contentious contract as the reality on ground is that so much money was spent on the project and yet the dredging was never carried out successfully.
According to the NPA chief, the management had met with the Calabar Channel Management (CCM) company demanding the hydrographic report and a full data on the status of the contract.
She observed that many operators at the Calabar Port had shut down their operations due to the shallow channel, which had impeded bigger vessels from berthing at the port.
“I have informed the management that we are going to have technical sessions next week to determine the level of dredging said to have been done.
“We are looking at the dredging critically, as the money we have spent on capital dredging is not translating to the amount we are spending on maintenance dredging. The cost of maintenance should not be that high, so we are asking for full data. It’s time we flashed our light on capital dredging and maintenance dredging and why we spend so much money and where it is going to.
“We have requested for the hydrographic service carried out from the onset. The documents will help in determining the way forward around Calabar Channel management. We believe there is a critical need to resolve this issue so that the draft can be made deeper and we can have more vessels coming into Calabar. We looked backwards to see what went wrong as it relates to capital and maintenance dredging and indeed the works that Calabar Channel Management was said to have embarked upon in 2015,” she said.
Usman also noted that her administration was keen on matching spending on capital projects with increased revenue generation.
“The critical issue about Calabar port has to do with the dredging of the channel; the draft needs to be deeper to ensure we attract more vessels. We need to jointly work to bring commercial activities into the state. We have discussed with the state government.
“We would seek support from the Federal Ministry of Works as regards the federal roads that link Cross River State with other states. We would also work with the Ministry of Trade and Investment to ensure that the trade routes within the Gulf of Guinea and the North East part of the country is revived,” she assured.
Recall that the $56 million contract for the dredging of Calabar Port Channel was awarded in 2006 and remains uncompleted till date.
The Federal Government awarded another contract in November 2014 at N20 billion to complete the project.
Specifically, the contract was awarded at the initial sum of N3 billion in 1996 but it was later re-awarded in 2006 at $56 million. The contract, which was signed by the NPA, the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) and the Calabar Channel Management, was for the port to be dredged up to 9.8 metres.