By Godwin Oritse
TWO committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, have threatened to cancel the concession extension granted nine terminal operators for violation of an already existing contract with the government.
It also threatened to arrest immediate past Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Malam Habib Abdullahi, for allegedly deceiving the National Assembly that the concession extension did not exist.
The two committees are the Senate Committee on Marine Transport and the House of Representatives Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways.
Speaking at the joint committee meeting with concessionaires, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways, Dr. Patrick Asadu, also said the fact that Habib Abdullahi lied to the committee when he was confronted with the alleged concession extension might provoke the National Assembly to seek his arrest.
Some members of the committees were of the opinion that the concession extension granted the concessionaires did not follow due process.
“We do not know why the former Managing Director lied to us to cover up this illegality.
“I have deep concern over the issue of concession extension. This Committee has a mandate to the people of Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, we called your predecessor and put him on oath and he swore that there was no extension before the Committee.
“I am very bitter about this.
“You can’t bring in a new rule at the middle of a game. If NPA agrees with the extension, this Committee will not agree.
“This committee will follow up this issue of concession extension, and if NPA agrees with it, then they will have to deal with us,” Asadu said.
Asadu, who almost cried out on discovering that the former Managing Director actually authorized the concession extension, said he would surely be brought to book.
Efforts to reach Habib Abdullahi for comments were futile as he refused to take calls to his phone when Vanguard called.
The Joint Committee was particularly irked at the fact that the current concession agreements had not ended before new extensions were granted.
The committee also discovered that the concession agreements entered into by terminal operators and NPA had not been reviewed in the last 10 years, even when the agreement said it should be reviewed every two years.
Confirming the extension of the concession, Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, told the joint committee that there was, indeed an extension granted to some concessionaires for various reasons.
Usman said some of the extensions were granted due to NPA’s inability to hand over some of the land concessioned to the operators.
She also said that some of these extensions were granted between 2011 and 2015, suggesting a holistic concession extension.
Usman that it was not enough to grant extensions without reviewing the financing models.
“Indeed, I believe the Federal Government and the NPA should have had a holistic review and within that holistic review, you take into consideration the fact that beyond concession extensions, there is need to review the finance models, you just do not review one portion of the concession agreements.
“This is a situation we find ourselves, NPA is key to the fact that these concession agreements are reviewed in a timely manner and in an efficient manner, ensuring that all the issues between the operators and NPA are taken into consideration.”