NPA consults AGF over indicted firms contract bid

The Nigerian Ports Authority says it has consulted the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for advice concerning the contract bid by Dredging International (Cyprus), a firm indicted by a Swiss court in a $20m bribery scandal involving top ex-officials of the NPA.

The Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Usman, disclosed this in Lagos on Monday during an interactive session with the media.

Usman said she raised the issue during a recent board meeting of the organisation and informed members of the board that the NPA was seeking the advice of the AGF regarding the organisations continued relationship with Dredging International.

Dredging International, which was fined $1m by a Swiss court for the bribery scandal, had explained to the court that it gave the bribe to the NPA officials to facilitate payments of its invoices which the authority had failed for more than six months to pay.

The firm argued that the unpaid invoices with the NPA were incurring a lot of interest in the banks and that the NPA members of staff refused to sign and pay it unless they were induced.

But the NPA MD said that the Attorney General was responding to the request for advice and that the authority would get his response on or before next week.

She said, But what is important is that when officials of government decide to sit on invoices until they are bribed, it is a reflection that for us to do our work in this country, people have to bribe us. So much so that they go to court and declare that they bribed us because we could not sign their invoices.

We also checked with the records to see if the invoices of Dredging International were delayed during those periods and confirmed that their invoices were delayed.

We need to, as public officials, understand that this case is not a good thing for us so that as you are looking at delayed invoice, somebody will testify and say, the reason why I paid the bribe was because they held my invoice for six months, they intentionally refused to pay me because they are looking for inducement.

This is a very important lesson for us. When you demand money for anything, they will bring the money and give you, then go back to their country and say that the reason why they bribed us was that we were preventing them from operating.

The firm handles the dredging contract between Bonny and Escravos and Usman explained that going by the Nigerian procurement law, no firm could be prevented from bidding for contract if the firm had the qualifications except there was a clear provision in the law that stated that the firm could not participate.

They have been doing the job for the past 10 years so it is very easy for them to be qualified because they have all the attendant documentation and the requirements but nevertheless we await the decision of the AGF on the legitimacy of our continued interaction with this company, she said.

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