Stakeholders Warn Against Halting Calabar Channel Project | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Stakeholders Warn Against Halting Calabar Channel Project

Posted: Jul 18, 2015 at 7:46 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

A maritime expert and lawyer, Akpan Umoh, has warned that stakeholders would resist any attempt to thwart the dredging of the Calabar Channel by those who lost in the bidding process.

Reacting to recent media reports that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) authorised the payment of $35 million (about N7 billion) to Calabar Channel Management Limited, he accused the bid losers of consistently sponsoring negative publicity against the project.

Speaking with journalists in Calabar, Umoh wondered why the losers are “creating a picture of controversy in the project where none exists,” stressing that as critical stakeholders in the Calabar Port project, they had carried out discreet investigation into the entire bidding process.

This, the noted, showed that “the entire contract followed due process, obtained all the necessary approvals and vetting of the agreement by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) before its execution.”

The project, Umoh added, is “very strategic to the economic development of Nigeria particularly the North- Central, South-South and South- East regions of the country.

“In addition, when functional, it will increase the volume of vessel traffic and cargo throughput in the port, decongest Lagos ports and reduce cost of doing business for Calabar-based businessmen who spend additional transport cost to take delivery of their consignments in Lagos and Onne ports and as such we will defend the project with the last pint of our blood until it is actualised,” he stressed.

He said rather than support and encourage the joint venture company between the NPA and a consortium of companies led by Messrs Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Limited, for the dredging of the Calabar Port which has not been paid, but has mobilised to site and made tremendous progress, “those against the project have instead mounted stiff negative campaign to frustrate it.”

According to him, “though the Calabar Channel Management (CCM) has not been paid, it is gladdening to note that it is presently carrying out capital and maintenance dredging of the water channel well known for its shallow draught that has hampered bigger vessels from coming into the port in the last decades.

“So far, CCM has deployed dredgers, survey vessels, buoyage tender, wreck removal cranes and other ancillary marine crafts to the water channel for its operation and was concentrating on spots in the channel critical to navigation which so far, 16.3 kilometers out of the envisaged 84kilometers to be dredged have been worked upon.”

He assured that the removal of the immediate past Managing Director of NPA, Habib Abdullahi has nothing to do with the project.

An insider at the NPA told our correspondent that the former MD was sacked for other misdemeanors and not for the Calabar Channel project, because “it was he who signed the contract and supervised the appointment of consultants and technical auditors for the project.

“All the project board meetings for the two years that the project was signed were chaired by Habib Abdullahi. So, why could he have been removed for a project that he was so much involved in?”

According to the insider, one of the Joint Venture Companies (JVCs) that benefit from the Calabar dredging project if it was not awarded to the Niger Global Consortium, is also believed to be behind the campaign of calumny against the project. He said there is nothing wrong with paying the contractors for the work done as it followed due process and the agreement duly approved and signed.

He cautioned against exposing civil servants to unnecessary politics and blackmail in the discharge of their duties.