ABUJA, Nigeria – The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has called on anti-corruption agencies for necessary investigation of alleged corrupt practices of inflated Airfare rates for members of staff of the Nigerian Ports Authority management.
In a release issued by CACOL and signed by Adegboyega Otunuga, the anti-corruption organization’s Coordinator, Media, and Publications on behalf of its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, recalled that the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, started operations in April 1955 following the implementation of the Ports Act of 1954.
It explained that the public corporation managed only the Lagos and Port Harcourt ports, ab initio while some private companies managed the remaining Nigerian ports.
CACOL noted that in addition to managing cargo handling, quay and berthing facilities at the Lagos and Port Harcourt ports, the initial law also gave it the responsibility of managing harbours and approaches to all ports in the country.
It further recalled that “By 1963 the firm had grown successfully, it was operating a cargo ship from Lagos to Port Harcourt and also began dredging the Bonny terminal for oil operations.”
“After the Nigerian Army’s directive for cement supply in order to enable it to build adequate number of barracks to house almost all its soldiers and the influx of ships bringing cement (cement armada) to the country, Tin Can Island port was hastily constructed in 1976 to ameliorate the problems; and it comprised of 10 berths and 2.5km of hard quay, while about 24 terminals were later concessioned for greater efficiency and resourcefulness (NPA would continue to act as the landlord and provide common user facilities, technical oversight, and other marine services. The private operators were to be involved in loading and offloading of cargoes).”
CACOL explained, however, that over the years, the NPA has been embroiled in a number of corruption allegations, leading to the arraignment and conviction of its Chairman from 2001 to 2003, along with five (5) other board members for ‘approving contracts beyond their approval limits’.
It said that this and many other acts of impropriety “have made the NPA one of the most corrupt agencies in Nigeria, latest of which is an internal memo of the Nigerian Ports Authority dated January 24, 2020, an online news medium, SaharaReporters, showing how the management of the agency had been siphoning public funds.
“In the document with reference number: Ref: HQ/GM/C&SC/OP/VF/045 and addressed to the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communication, Engr Adams Jatto, and titled: Review of airfare rates (local), the management could be seen engaging in sharp practices by jerking up the current rate of local airfares astronomically. In the document, Jatto said, ‘The Division has observed the recent hike in prices of local tickets across the country.
“In view of the above and in order to keep abreast with the reality of our times, it is hereby recommended that the rates for local flights be reviewed upwards accordingly as detailed below.”
“Outlined on a table in the document, the NPA management proposed and approved between N180, 000 (One Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira) to N320, 000 (Three Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira) for a return trip on business class depending on the state to be visited, and between N150, 000 (One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) to N290, 000 (Two Hundred and Ninety-Thousand Naira) for a two-way journey on economy class subject to the route. Whereas, findings indicated that a round trip airfare anywhere in Nigeria costs between N44, 000 and N75, 000 regardless of airline and class of seat. This means that on the lowest category of airfare rates approved by the NPA management, officials of the agency would pocket N75, 000 per staff flying such trips. On the highest fares approved, officials could rake in as much as N245, 000 per staff that uses such facility. All these could run into millions and even billions of Naira of taxpayers’ money at the end of the year, thus putting a serious financial strain on the domestic economy”.
The anti-graft czar added, “Considering the strategic and critical role of seaports operations in any country, we are seriously concerned about the enormity of corruption going on in the administration of ports functioning in the country. We, therefore, call on the federal government to quickly wade into ports administration with a view to sanitizing it and bring those responsible for their underperformance to book so as to serve as a deterrent while decongesting their operations to relieve the Lagos Port Complex of undue congestion and slow pace of work. This should lead to greater activities at Delta port, Calabar port, Rivers and Onne port for improved port efficiency and greater revenue base to the nation.”