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Okonjo-Iweala alleges corruption at NPA

Posted by From Azumazi Momoh Jimoh, Abuja on 2005/10/13 | Views: 2555 |

Okonjo-Iweala alleges corruption at NPA


FINANCE Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday alleged that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was full of corrupt practices.

FINANCE Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday alleged that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was full of corrupt practices.

The minister spoke at the National Assembly on the invitation of the Senate Committee on Finance, where she explained the Federal Government's plan to engage Crown Agents of London to reform the Customs and Excise Department.

Okonjo-Iweala declared: "There has been a lot of corruption in NPA, but what you hear people say is that no funding, no funding. Once they say the Finance Ministry has not made funds available, everybody keeps quiet."

She added: "There was a time that only one crane was servicing the entire ports. One crane! Why one crane? Even if it was N20 that they got as funding for that period, what did they do with it? Why just one crane?

"All you hear people say is "bring money", "bring money", "bring money", money, money, money, but nobody is asking what they are doing with the money," she queried.

Asked who was responsible for supervising the NPA during the period in which corruption pervaded in the authority, Okonjo-Iweala, who burst into laugher said; "I don't know who was supervising it (NPA)."

Earlier, the minister had frowned at a question from Senator Farouk Bello-Bunza, who had asked why transparency "which you preach" was not followed in picking the Crown Agents of London for the reform of the Custom and Excise Department.

Okonjo-Iweala, who became agitated, said: "I must object to that hint of lack of the transparency we preach. I must take exceptions. There was nothing wrong in procedures followed and you can call."

She was however halted by the committee chairman, Senator Bob Effiong, who explained that there was no quarrel intended in the question by Bello-Bunza. But continuing, Okonjo-Iweala contended that, "when you say the transparency we preach, I must take exceptions. There was nothing hidden. When you have a specialised field, you are allowed to go straight and ask for proposals.

"The whole thing (proposals) have been submitted to due process. No information has been hidden. But who are those that don't want this reform? Why are there articles in the newspapers and everywhere on the Crown Agents of London? These are the questions we need to ask or is there anything wrong with contracting those who know how to assist us?

She however took time to explain the role which Crown Agents of London would play in the reform of the Customs and Excise Department, stressing that the group would ensure the training and strengthening of the department and not perform the job of Customs and Excise Department.

She explained that "the cost of project less fees" proposed by Crown Agents is $100m, adding that "this is a proposal but with the work of due process, this cost will come down. It's a sketchy proposal. We have fully recognised the problems of the Customs."

Bello-Bunza had described the plans of having Crown Agents of London to reform Customs Department as "noble," but added that "this does not prevent you from placing adverts to say we want to reform and we need experts to partner with us. That way, you would have followed the transparency which you preach. Why was the advert not placed? Why were Nigerians not informed about reforms," Bello-Bunza queried.

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