05 March 2014, Abuja – The National Assembly has raised a panel to probe the controversy surrounding the award of contract and non-delivery of a multi-million Naira training ship for the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) in Effurun, Delta State.
The contracts for the diving support vessel, meant for the training of students at the institute, was awarded to Netsach Limited and partly paid for in 2009 during the late president Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration.
It was learnt that since 2009 when the contractor was paid the sum of N985 million, the National Assembly has been appropriating funds for the vessel every year.
According to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Senator Emmanuel Paulker, the discovery was made by the Joint National Assembly Committee on Gas and Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) during the budget defence of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources last week.
According to him, the Committee had to immediately set up the probe panel, comprising all the six committees on petroleum and gas in the Senate and the House of Representatives, disclosing that despite the yearly appropriation of funds for the vessel, it is yet to arrive the shores of Nigeria, adding that it was the intention of the National Assembly to find the vessel wherever it is.
“I was chairman of the downstream petroleum committee for four years in the last National Assembly and the issue of that vessel was reflected in every year’s budget. This committee demands a comprehensive report on that vessel vis-a- vis the amount so far expended on it,” he said.
While questioning the Acting Principal and Chief Executive Officer of PTI, Mrs. C. N. Dennar, who signed the institution’s 2012 budget, Paulker said: “You should also indicate as to whether the vessel we are about receiving is that very vessel we have been paying money for and then, it is very necessary we set up a joint committee among ourselves to go and see that vessel because the investment is much.
“There was no year, as chairman of the Downstream Committee that I didn’t see that the purchase of that vessel was not reflecting. We will set up a committee to go and see that vessel whether it is in England, or anywhere in this world. This is a very serious matter and we need to know,” he said.
According to documents available to the joint committee, even though PTI had released over N985 million to Netsach Limited for the purchase of the vessel, yet it has not arrived the Nigerian shores.
It was also said that a visit to Singapore by the Senate Petroleum Committee in May 2010 failed to secure the vessel’s delivery as it was reportedly found in a bad shape. Against this background, it was recommended by the Senate delegation that the vessel be repaired in Singapore before being brought to Nigeria. But three years later, the vessel has not been seen.
In 2010, N173 million was budgeted for the vessel out of which N143.459 million was released. In 2011, another N203.693 million was budgeted for it, while in 2012, N915,759,651 was proposed for the project.
The contract for purchase of the “Excellent Diver” was awarded by the late Yar’Adua administration to Netsach Limited in the sum of N1,117,330,873.31 July 21, 2009.
Contract document from the ministry showed that 15 per cent would be paid for mobilisation, 55 per cent would be paid after purchase and the balance of 25 per cent on delivery to PTI’s designated post in Nigeria.
However, the terms of delivery were allegedly disregarded by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which released N957,131,611.29 to Netsach Limited. Upon receiving the sum, Nestach invited PTI for a sea trial that eventually failed, as the vessel could not sail.
The document of the vessel, MV BLUESTONE TOPAZ, showed that it was built over 30 years ago in contrast with the provision in the award letter signed by one L.A. Ibrahim, which specified that the vessel should not be more than 10 years old.
PTI reportedly paid N200 million to the contractor, following an addendum to the contract and a directive from the ministry by the then Director of Planning and Statistics, Emmanuel Izuegbu, to the Acting Principal to “take early action” on the addendum by releasing the money to Netsach.
The payment was part of the third installment, which should have been made on delivery.
Also yesterday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Senator Bassey Otu, urged Nigerians to ensure that the recent controversy on the suspension of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is not allowed to distract CBN from effectively discharging its functions effectively.
Otu made these remarks during budget defence before the Committee by the CBN. He said: “You have been doing quite alright in terms of performance. The state of the economy has been very challenging. There has been a lot of controversies in recent times linking the central bank. We won’t want it to affect the institution.”
He stated that, “We want everybody to concentrate and do the work the Nigerian people want you to do. Issues would sort out themselves at appropriate time… but it must not affect the productivity of the institution, the direction and objectives of the institution.”
In his presentation, CBN Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, Alhaji Suleiman Barau, attributed the high budgetary expenditure of 2013 arising from liquidity management to the quantitative reliefs in the United States and Western European countries.
He said the development led to the upsurge in foreign portfolio investment inflow by investors who wanted to take advantage of the higher profits available in the Nigerian market.
According to him, the pressure on the foreign reserves might have stemmed from activities of these foreign investors whom he said wanted to repatriate their returns on investment.