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Senate insists on probing alleged N263 billion fraud at Lagos ports

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• OMSL warns FG against fresh judgment debt
• Lawmakers mull new law to boost governance

The Senate has described as irreversible its decision to investigate alleged financial infractions by security outfits at the Lagos ports worth about N263 billion.

It had last week directed its committees on Navy, Marine Transport and Finance to investigate the activities of Messrs OMSL and other security agencies at the Safe Anchorage Area in the ports over the alleged misdeeds.

But amid concerns that the investigation might suffer setbacks for lack of initial consultations, the leadership of the Senate has reportedly charged its joint committee to continue the probe.

Speaking to The Guardian in confidence, a principal officer of the Senate said: “Look, the Senate has taken a decision to investigate the matter already. Although I am not authorised to talk on the matter because I am not a member of the joint committee, I will say that the issues of consultation being raised will be done by the joint committee, which has already received the marching order to swing into action.

“I can tell you that on this investigation, we have reached a point of no return. The only time Senate will look at the matter again is when the joint committee turns in its report. Whoever has anything against the investigation should direct its complaints to the joint committee.”

This emerged as one of the stakeholders in the issues that prompted the probe, Ocean Marine Solutions Ltd (OMSL), asked the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to intervene and stop Marine Notice No 5 of 2019.

A marine notice is a restriction placed by the harbour master informing mariners to navigate freely in the secured anchorage area.

The firm believes the Senate was too much in a hurry and had jumped into conclusions without an oversight tour to unravel the truth.

In a letter signed its chairman, Capt Idahosa Okunbo, the firm said: “With the current financial situation of the country, OMSL believes everything possible should be done to avoid a situation where government is faced with the burden of another judgment debt running into several billions of naira with interest, which may arise from a suit filed by OMSL challenging the said marine notice.

“Considering the current security challenges in the country, OMSL is of the view that government should do everything possible to avoid another ‘war front’ from our territorial waters similar to the Boko Haram situation experienced on land. Again, OMS believes the much-needed revenue from import duties should not be lost as a result of diversion of ships to the ports in other countries.

“Accordingly, OMSL requests your honour to use your good offices to advise the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of the imminent security risk and negative financial implications of the issuance of the said marine notice.”

Providing a breakdown of likely negative economic effects of the notice, the firm said: “Once the Nigerian territorial waters become notorious again, the shippers will prefer to call at ports of neighbouring countries. Revenues, which ordinarily should accrue to the Federal Government through agencies such as NIMASA and NPA, would be diverted to these other countries.”

It added: “The menace of smuggling through the land borders will drastically increase as goods meant for Nigeria but offloaded at the ports of other countries would find their way into the country one way or another. Much needed import duties, which ordinarily have been levied at the Lagos ports, would also be lost.”

Meanwhile, in a special legislative intervention to check abuses, leakages, and improve efficiency, the Senate is creating a machinery to institutionalise strategic planning and measure the level of Federal Government’s performance and accountability.

The new instrument, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by The Guardian, has already been gazetted and is due for general debate in plenary this week.

The new law creates the ‘Government Accountability Department (GAD)’, which would serve as the engine room and catalyst for achieving the objectives intended.

The bill states: “No later than the 30th of September every year, the head of each federal government ministry, agency, department and institution shall submit to the GAD, and to the supervising committees of both chambers of the National Assembly, a strategic plan for programme activities of their various ministries and agencies for the succeeding four years.”

The four-year plan, which they are to submit to the GAD, according to the bill, should contain a comprehensive mission statement covering the major functions and operations of the agency, as set out by its enabling statute or regulation.

Tagged ‘Government Performance and Results Bill 2019’ and sponsored by Senator Stella Odua (PDP, Anambra State), the bill makes it compulsory for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other federal institutions to do yearly performance plans and reports covering each programme activity set forth in the budget of such ministry or agency.

Accordingly, such a plan shall establish goals to define the level of performance to be achieved by a programme activity of such ministry or agency and express such goals in an objective, quantifiable, and measurable form.


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