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$20m Bribery: NPA Shortlists Indicted Firm, 21 Others For Contract

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The were indications on Wednesday that the Federal Government may stop ongoing investigation of a $20milion bribery scandal in the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

This is despite overwhelming evidence from Switzerland that one of the 22 firms shortlisted for fresh contract was indicted by Swiss authorities in the $20million bribery scam.

There is anger in the maritime industry that allegations against those named in the scandal, including a company (Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd,) might be dropped.

Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd was  part of a conglomerate which established The Bonny Channel Management Limited  which has a joint venture service with NPA.

The Bonny Channel Company is expected to do the following: “creating and maintaining a safe navigational passage for all marine users to and in the Eastern Ports of Bonny Island, Onne, Okrika and Port-Harcourt”.

The company, Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd,) was fined 1 million Francs by Swiss authorities after pleading guilty.

Also, the company was ordered to refund 36 million Swiss Francs as illegal profits.

In indicting the company, the Swiss government, said it invoked the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the International Law Principle of Reciprocity.

On May 2, 2012, the Swiss authorities had through the Office of The Attorney-General, Department of International Affairs implicated some NPA top officials in the $20million scandal alongside Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd.

The report of the indictment was thus forwarded to former President Goodluck Jonathan, asking that the indicted Nigerians in the $20 million bribery scandal be probed. However, the Jonathan administration claimed the money was a “consultancy fees”.

There is anger in the maritime industry that allegations against those named in the scandal, including a company (Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd,) might be dropped.

It was gathered that some top Cabinet members in the Buhari administration
were pushing for the engagement of the company by NPA even though the bribery scandal preceded the new management of NPA, being led by Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman.

Industry players fear dropping the case may cause a diplomatic row between Nigeria and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, incumbent NPA boss, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, has vowed to sanction the company, directors and staff who were indicted.

She’s determined to confront forces that had been trying to frustrate her cleansing efforts.

“We have a serious challenge at hand and it might affect our international image. While the Swiss authorities wanted Nigeria to act on the report and recover the $20million bribe sum, Nigeria seems to have foreclosed the probe of the scandal.

“Some forces are already pushing for a reprieve for Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd. They are trying to influence the ongoing investigation by NPA management.

“We are being told that the Federal Government is no longer interested in investigating the $20million bribery. Some ministers have been implicated in the push for a pardon for the indicted firm.

“And to our consternation, NPA has shortlisted Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited and 21 others for a new contract. The bid for the contract will open any moment from now.

“It is really unfortunate that the corrupt elements have had their way. They are forcing the management to sing,” a top official in NPA said.

Also, a diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity had this to say, “It is unfortunate that your country has not acted on this report in the last five years.

“If nothing is done, Swiss authorities may not be interested in helping your government to recover Abacha looted funds.”

A source in the Presidency reacted this way, “We have received many complaints on the status of the company in question but the last we heard from NPA was that it is seeking legal advice.

“We are watching development closely because the $20million bribery scandal was uncovered by the Swiss Government. So, the matter is between two jurisdictions. We do not want any diplomatic crisis between Nigeria and Switzerland.

“I can assure you that President Muhammadu Buhari and NPA MD will sweep such a scandal under the carpet.”

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