Anger as NPA plans to re-engage firm indicted by Switzerland over $20m bribery scandal

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Some stakeholders in the maritime industry are angry.
Reason: A company, Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited, indicted over a $20 million bribery scandal in Switzerland, is being considered for a new contract by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
This is despite overwhelming evidence against the firm.
In fact, some of these stakeholders have written to the NPA, the Transportation Ministry and the Presidency to stop the bid.
During the probe, the firm pleaded guilty and was fined One million Swiss Francs by Swiss authorities. It was also ordered to refund 36 million Swiss Francs as illegal profits.
Now, the firm and 21 others have been shortlisted by NPA for another contract.
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 inclusion of the company in a new bid is causing ripples in NPA because the Swiss government was expecting action on the corruption report which it sent to the Federal Government since 2012.
Some ministers were said to be pushing for the engagement of the company by NPA, a development which might cause a diplomatic challenge between the Federal Government and Switzerland.
The Swiss authorities, through the Office of The Attorney-General, Department of International Affairs on May 2, 2012 had implicated some NPA top officials in the $20 million scandal alongside Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd.
In forwarding its report to the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the Swiss government said it invoked the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the International Law Principle of Reciprocity.
Switzerland, however, demanded a probe of indicted Nigerians in spite of the fact that the Jonathan administration claimed that the $20 million was “consultancy” fees
Although the bribery scandal preceded the new management of NPA, being led by Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, authorities concerned had vowed to sanction the company, directors and staff who were indicted.
It was learnt that some forces had been trying to “frustrate the cleansing efforts of the Managing Director of NPA.
It is believed that NPA has been “pressurized” to consider giving a new contract to the indicted firm.
Said a source: “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 $20 million 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”.
A diplomat, who spoke in confidence, said: “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 presidency source said: “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 $20 million 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 not sweep such a scandal under the carpet.”
On June 14, the Managing Director of the agency, Hadiza Bala Usman, told an online newspaper that apart from being “deeply embarrassing” to the NPA, the indictment was particularly worrisome.
She said: “It is a development we are deeply worried about because it relates to the integrity of our agency and process.
“We are reviewing the indictment and we will call for a full-scale investigation as it relates to companies and individuals in Nigeria said to have been involved. This corruption revelation is a helpful development.”

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