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$20m Eastern ports scam: FG silent on indicted 4 ex-NPA top shots, Cyprian firm

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We’re following due process — NPA
ABUJA – More than three months after the Swiss government alerted its Nigerian counterpart that some top officials of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, connived with a Cyprian firm to defraud the nation of over $20 million through bribe-for-contract, the Federal Government is yet to take action against the suspects.

The  firm, Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited, which formed a company known as The Bonny Channel Management Company since 2005 with the NPA, is reported to have executed contracts worth N714 billion for the Federal Government, especially in creating and maintaining a safe navigational passage for marine users along the Eastern Ports of Bonny Island, Onne and Okrika in Rivers State.

Findings by Vanguard showed that while the Federal Government holds 60 percent shares in the firm, the Bonny Channels Management keeps 40 per cent of the equity in the company, which had been executing major jobs for the NPA for the past 12 years.

But a top Federal Government official told Vanguard, yesterday, that the government was weighing options on the alleged $20 million bribery scandal involving the company and some former NPA officials.

The top government official said it was wrong to conclude that the Buhari administration would gloss over any established corrupt practice by any official, no matter their status.

The official pointed out that since the Swiss government raised the flag on the suspected Cyprian firm and the Nigerian officials, the  NPA had opted to seek legal advice on what to do with the suspects so as to deal with the matter in a way that would give the country respect before the international community.

The legal opinion being sought by the Federal Government followed a May 1, 2017, Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office’s indictment report that about $20million was paid as bribes to some NPA officials between 2007 and 2011.

However, a top source said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would not gloss over the bribery scandal, which had already caught the attention of the world.

“What the government is trying to do is to follow due process. So far, the NPA said it has sought advice from its Legal Unit and as a major shareholder in the Joint Ventures; the government is awaiting its input.”

“But the relevant anti-corruption agency is already investigating the bribery scandal. At the appropriate time, Nigerians will be informed of the outcome of the ongoing investigation and the position of the government.”

Among the likely actions planned by the government are to terminate the JV with the Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd and others in the consortium; imposing sanctions on the indicted company, including banning it from any further business with NPA;  filing of fresh charges against the company in Nigeria like the case of Halliburton scandal; and   prosecute officials of the company and ex-NPA top shots who were also implicated.

The officials said:  “The new management of NPA, headed by Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman, is on a mission to sanitize the agency and it will not sweep the scandal under the carpet.

“We are trying to follow due process by opting for legal advice from the relevant unit.  Since the new management came on board, it has embarked on drastic measures to rid the system of corrupt practices. But political meanings are being read into our policies and actions.

“When we acted on Intels, there was uproar and there was another measure put in place which a former Head of State was angry with.

“At the end of the day, we will lay all the cards on the table on the bribery scandal involving Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd and take the best decision in the overriding interest of this country.”

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