Even though it is scheduled for handing over to a concessionaire before the end of 2018, there are indications that conflict of interests among senior officials in the Ministry of Transportation may stall the commissioning of Onitsha River port in Anambra state.
Although, the agency in charge of the facility; the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) said it has concluded the exercise leading to the announcement of a successful bidder; no winner has been announced yet.
Our correspondent confirmed last week that, the lull is attributable to two senior officials in the Ministry who raised conflicting memos in defence of their preferred company.
It was confirmed that, originally about six firms expressed interest in the concession, out of which only four were shortlisted to bid.
The companies that expressed interest are: Inland Container Nigeria Limited, International Trading and Contracting Limited, Le.Ejinkeonye Nigeria Limited, Universal Elysium Consortium, Marlin Maritime Consortium and Logistics Resources Ltd. and Oranto Petroleum.
It was also confirmed that, out of the lot, four were shortlisted; they are: Inland Containers Terminals, Oranto Petroluem, Elysium Consortium and International Trading Company.
Shipping Position Daily confirmed that, because of the divergent interests, two officers raised memos to favour their preferred bidders.
In the letters which were sighted by our correspondent, and dated August 1 and 2, 2018 respectively, the subject matter was the same, but there were two different recommendations on the controversial Onitsha River Port Concession.
While the first memo with reference number T.2990/S.6/1/T/37 was signed by Engr Audu, the other memo with reference number T.2990/S.6/1/T/35 was signed by Engr. Ekwenugo Chukwudi.
Specifically, the two memo showed that, Engr Audu preferred Messrs Inland Container Nig Ltd as the preferred bidder, while Engr Ekwenugo Chukwudi preferred Messrs Universal Elysium Consortium as the preferred bidder for the Onitsha River Port.
In his memo, Engr Audu, specifically noted that: “You may wish to note that the Ministry has not yet replied the Federal Ministry of Finance in respect of issues raised by its Technical Services Department, on the concession of Onitsha River Port”
“However, a response with supporting documents that addresses the issues raised has been drafted by the Maritime Services and Legal Departments and placed at back of file for consideration of the management.
“That a letter of notification should be issued to Messrs Inland Container Nig Ltd. Being the preferred bidder to renew their bid bond for additional one hundred and eighty days and to stand by should negotiation with the preferred bidder fails”.
However, Engr. Ekwenugo’s conflicting memo read in part: “In view of the foregoing, you may therefore wish to recommend to the Honourable Minister to consider and approve the following prayers as stated”
“That a letter of notification be issued to Messrs Universal Elysium Consortium being the preferred Bidder and to invite the company for negotiation on the upfront concession fee, annual fixed concession fee, Escalation in annual fixed concession fee and the variable concession and other relevant terms.”
The Onitsha River port, which was built by ex-President Shehu Shagari about 30 years ago, had been abandoned until it was rehabilitated by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan at N4.6billon in 2012.
The controversial river port was initiated about 30 years ago during the regime of President Shehu Shagari.