Intrigues And Corruption Threaten Calabar River Dredging

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It is becoming clear by the day that unless the Cross River State Government, concerned individuals and groups, mount further pressure on the Federal Government and her agencies charged with the responsibility of dredging the Calabar River, that exercise may be headed in the wrong direction, once again, can authoritatively reveal.

The 84 nautical miles stretch of the river, granting access to the Calabar Port has over the years become a conduit pipe that corrupt officials have used to pilfer state funds. Between 1996 to 2013, in four controversial dredging attempts, a princely N15 billion, supposedly earmarked and sunk into the project, brought forth no results. Again as recent as 2006, documents obtained by show that the sum of N9 billion was spent dredging the river and yet again without results.

In the 2013 budget again, N3 billion was voted for the beginning of the river’s dredging alone. It is this vote that quickly triggered the incorporation of a company, Calabar Channel Management Company, owned by Niger Global Engineering & Technical Company Limited, said to be owned by a serving senator. The company, without experience in handling jobs of this nature is said to have been offered the job even as records show that it did not bid for the job and was not prequalified, conditions that are usually considered in contracting out jobs of this nature and magnitude. This situation was the reason behind the petition written by Chief Anthony Anenih, Board Chairman, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, to Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar, querying the rationale behind the choice of the senator’s company to handle the job.

Again, sources say the N3 billion voted is to also accomodate the dredging of the Ibaka Deep Sea Port in nearby Akwa Ibom State, eventhough the port has not been created. It was for procedurial reasons like this that the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, cancelled the entire contract process two years ago, following strong protests over NPA’s attempt to award the contract to itself.

Recall that as recent as June this year, when the NPA Board paid him a courtesy call, the Obong of Calabar, while decrying the spate of failed dredging attempts of the access stretch of the river, pleaded that the dredging, critical to triggering the commencement of serious port activities, needs to be carried out as a demonstration to the government and people of the state that the FG considers CRS’s contribution to the economic growth of Nigeria as important.

The state government on its part, evidence show, has made several attempts at having the dredging done once and for all eventhough the attempts have yeilded minimal benefits.

While all of this plays out, it remains to be seen if this latest dredging attempt will follow a different path from several others.

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