Total indebtedness to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) from 2004 to 2016 is $420.55 million as against the $5 billion or $10 billion being quoted “by some persons,” the agency’s Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said.
Defending before the House of Representatives Committee on Marine Transport the controversial contract recently awarded to SNECO Financial Services, reportedly owned by the Chairman of Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Davies Akanya, Peterside insisted that NIMASA complied with all due requirements for award of contracts.
He disclosed that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) cleared the contract, adding that the sum of $5 billion was never mentioned in the contract as the debt in view. He said: “I never said that NIMASA was owed $5 billion.
“The entire volume of shipping trade in Nigeria in the last four years is nothing close to $10 billion. We complied with every provision of the Public Procurement Act.”
Unsatisfied, and with a firm belief that Peterside was being economical with the truth, however, the lawmakers insisted on a full investigative hearing and asked him to fully prepare for that.
The lawmakers said they were inundated with grave and weighty petitions against NIMASA and the firm, which was incorporated on April 4, 2016, way after Peterside’s appointment as head of the agency, including alleged fraudulent contract award and breach of due process.
There was also the claim that SNECO would pocket 13 per cent of the recovered debts (about $65 million) as part of the terms of the contract, a figure the committee considered outrageous.
Chairman of the committee, Mr. Umar Bago, told Peterside at the hearing: “We have the petitions here; the petitioners consider this a waste of public funds. Why will NIMASA engage another firm to perform its functions? Why do we have staff in NIMASA? What is their work?”
There were also questions about the firm’s qualification and competence, with the Chairman, House Committee on Power, Mr. Dan Asuquo, asking for its audited account, querying its pedigree and seeking to know its owners.