There are palpable fears that the Federal Government may jettison on-going inquiry into a $20 million bribery scandal rocking the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Sources said despite overwhelming evidence from Switzerland, indications have emerged that the Federal Government may be considering shunning issues around those fingered in the alleged rip-off, including a firm, Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd.
Amidst these controversies, the NPA’s management has already listed the affected firm, indicted by Swiss authorities in the $20 million scam, and 21 others for bid for a new contract award.
According to reports, the said company is still fresh from the guilty plea in Switzerland where it was fined one million Francs by Swiss authorities, with an ordered to also refund 36 million Swiss Francs it amass as illegal profits.
However, the firm’s inclusion in the contract bidding process is currently causing ripples within NPA as sources confirmed that the Swiss government has been expecting Nigeria to act on the corruption report sent to the Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan since 2012.
In the current imbroglio, it was gathered that a strong case have been made by some ministers for NPA to engage the disgraced firm and event watchers warned such development may result in avoidable diplomatic row between Nigeria and Switzerland.
Through their Office of the Attorney-General, Department of International Affairs, the Swiss authorities had, on May 2, 2012, implicated some senior NPA officials in the $20 million scandal, involving Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd. When in 2012, the Swiss government forwarded the damning report to former President Jonathan’s administration; it had relied on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the International Law Principle of Reciprocity.
In spite of claims by Nigeria that the $20 million was “consultancy” fees, the report had requested comprehensive investigation of all Nigerian officials indicted in the fraud.
Though the scandal preceded the management of current NPA boss, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, there was an avowed resolve to sanction the company, directors and staff who were indicted when she came on board. However, the Authority now seems to be singing a different tune with allegations that some forces are out to “frustrate the cleansing efforts of the Managing Director of NPA.”
An insider, who expressed concern that the NPA management may have been “pressurized” to accommodate the indicted company in its list for new contracts, stated thus: “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 $20million bribe sum, Nigeria seems to have foreclosed the probe of the scandal.”
According to the insider, “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 $20 million bribery. Some ministers have been implicated in the push for a pardon for the indicted firm.”
He said; “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. They are forcing the management to sing a different tune from the initial resolve to unearth the issues involved in the Scandal.”
According to a diplomat, who spoke under anonymity because of his status; “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 anymore.”
However, dismissing the controversies surrounding the NPA bribery saga, a source in the 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 $20million 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 the NPA Managing Director will not sweep such a scandal under the carpet”, the source said