August 14, 2017

On the Senate, ports and revenue leakages



By Chukwudi Obi

ONE is constrained to join issues with “Mr. Yahaya Sadique”, supposedly a Kaduna-based writer over an article authored by him and published recently in a national newspaper. The article entitled “The Senate, Ports and revenue leakages” is to say, the least a disservice to the cause of truth. Although it hinges its premise on the ports and attempts by the Senate to investigate alleged revenue leakages at the ports, it dwells extensively on a statement recently issued by respected elder statesman and former Military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Umar Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd). And that is really pathetic.

One finds it distasteful that “Mr. Sadique” would disparage a man who has remained one of the most committed patriots and has never shied away from speaking his mind on national issues no matter how contentious they are. To insinuate that the statesman is under the influence of the NPA, is to say the least, a disgraceful position not expected of anyone conversant with national history and has national interest at heart.

But it does not seem that the writer under discussion is in tune with the current state of affairs going by the content of his article, especially as it concerns the NPA. Anyone familiar with the current state of affairs at the NPA would readily testify to the increasing level of transparency at the agency.

Just on Tuesday this week, a report in The Nation quoted statesman and former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba as saying the following about the new administration at the NPA: “If anybody is complaining about Hadiza Bala Usman…it must be that such people are not transparent. And if you are not transparent and compliant to the rules and regulation of NPA, you will run into troubled waters with Hadiza Bala Usman.”

How does this differ from Umar comments made about her just a few hours before Osoba said the foregoing?

It is unfortunate that it is this same person that Sadique is accusing of not just embarking on a media campaign against the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise &Tariffs and Marine Transport, but recruiting “supporters” in an imaginary media trial.

From what I have read about the NPA in the past couple months, its management has shown commendable commitment to instituting a culture of transparency at the organisation.

Concerning their relationship with the Senate, the only public comments that can be attributed to the NPA are those which offered explanations on issues raised by the Senate committees and went on to assure of its readiness to provide further information. Two examples of these are statements entitled: “NPA welcomes Senate’s investigation of its JV Enterprises,” published in the July 7, 2017 issue of Leadership and “No evidence of 282 missing vessels, says NPA,” published in the July 27, issue of THISDAY. From this, it is evident that the NPA does not need any mouthpiece to communicate its opinion to stakeholders in the Nigerian project.

Having said that, there is a need for me to highlight the part of report of The Nation of August 3, 2017, which he quoted in his article.  He had written: “…To support this position, which Col. Umar seemed to align to, the same publication stated more than four instances where vessels had come to Calabar Port and exited the Port without any proper documentation.” He went ahead to list these occasions when vessels were not properly documented and concluded that: “If these are true, then the NPA has tacitly admitted that indeed vessels enter the Nigerian waters and disappear without documentation. This tacit admission validates the position of the Senate that indeed, vessels do enter Nigeria’s territorial waters under the watch of the NPA and exit without documentation, hence the Public Hearing by Senate to look at the revenue leakages in the Ports. This tacit admission by the NPA, therefore, explains the aversion of the MD of the Nigerian Ports of Authority to honour the invitation of the Senate Committee and testify at the Public Hearing.”

My own understanding of the part of the report in The Nation is different. In my own understanding, the ships quoted in the article by “Mr Sadique” have nothing to do with the 282 ships that were said to be missing. On the contrary, they explicate the conclusion of the investigations into actives of the Calabar Channel Management Company and the attempt to hoodwink the NPA by the appearance and disappearance of these ships which were supposed to have been deployed as part of the company’s dredging contract.

Furthermore, in the THISDAY report of July 27 earlier cited, the NPA explained that it was presented with a number of documents on July 20, 2017 while another set was passed on to it through the Nigerian Shippers Council on July 24, 2017.

The report said after looking through the documents, the NPA discovered that of the 29 items handed over to it, only five vessels were identifiable with the other 24 items being repetitions of the five identified vessels.

The THISDAY report further said the organisation was unable to conduct a meaningful review of the documents sent through the Nigerian Shippers Council because they did not include data like vessel names, arrival date of vessels, port of arrival, name of terminal and no rotation number of vessels that will enable verification. It also said that the situation had been communicated to the Senate Committee.

What is clear from the administration of the NPA is that it is committed to the war against indiscipline of the Buhari administration. And as it concerns Col. Umar, one does not know what a man of his conviction, a man who stood against wrong decisions taken by his superiors in the military, should be accused of falsehood by “Sadique”.

For me, Col. Umar called the attention of Nigerians to issues that are pertinent to national survival. It is a period in our country when men and women of virtue are scarce; Umar is one of such and we should not grudge him for identifying people like him and standing with them. No, we should not!


*Mr. Obi , a maritime business analyst, wrote from Lagos.