THE INSIDER: Transport minister in maritime contract mess — two weeks to exit
With less than 20 days to the end of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, minister of transportation, has been accused of attempting to hijack the award of a lucrative maritime contract.
Documents seen by TheCable detail how Sambo pressured relevant government institutions to terminate a procurement process and give the contract out to July Seventh Ventures Limited, a company linked to a former governor of Ogun state.
The job in contention is the channel dredging contract by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Following the expiration of the previous Bonny Port dredging contract, the NPA management initiated a process to contract the task to qualified companies through an international competitive bidding process.
Aside the documented communication, the minister was said to have told persons involved privately that his attempt to seal the deal is at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari, who, Sambo allegedly claimed, had directed him to give one of the channels to his long-term associate and former governor.
A search at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) shows that two directors of July Seventh Ventures Limited, who served under the former governor, were appointed into the position around the time Sambo began pushing for the company to take over Bonny Port dredging through the now controversial process.
In his bid to hasten the process and push for the contract, Sambo is working round the clock to pull the strings and ensure the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) is pressured into giving its nod on the deal, according to insiders.
The minister also reportedly held a weekend meeting with Mamman Amadu, director-general of BPP, and the leadership of the NPA on May 6.
The minister also took the BPP boss to see a top presidential aide at home to have the process fast-tracked, it was alleged.
But Mamman was said to have pointed out the implications to both the minister and the presidential aide, pleading with them to allow the NPA management conclude the process already in the pipeline.
The process for engaging new dredging companies for the three politage districts covered by the NPA was halted following refusal by its management to issue award letters to the pre-qualified companies, despite the certificate of no-objection issued by the BPP.
The NPA management, in a letter dated November 23, 2022, employed some technicalities along the initial procurement process to justify its request for cancellation of the almost concluded process and restarting it.
Disturbed by the suspicious moves, two of the pre-qualified companies in the botched procurement process, Messrs Dredging and Reclamation Jan De Nul Limited and Red Star Global Construction Limited approached federal high courts in Lagos and Abuja separately challenging the attempt to cancel the procurement process.
With the new legal challenge, both the BPP and Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, have advised against the termination of the process pending the determination of the matter.
In a letter dated February 22, 2023, to one of the plaintiffs signed by the director solicitors of the ministry, she indicated that the attorney-general of the federation is unable to intervene on the matter in view of its pendency in court.
Insiders, however, said Sambo has refused to yield any ground.
TheCable has contacted the minister’s office for his response.