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Anxiety as Reps, NIMASA disagree on debt profile

There was palpable confusion yesterday at the floor of the green Chambers of the national Assembly when the House of Representatives and the Nigerian Maritime Safety and Administration Agency (NIMASA) failed to agree on the agency debt profile of the maritime agency.

Whereas the Umar Bago- lead House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration said the agency’s debt was $5 billion NIMASA’s Director General (DG), Perterside Dakuku insisted it was $1.5 billion.

Before now, the House had mandated the Committee to investigate NIMASA for outsourcing the recovery of the debt.

But at the resumed meeting with the management of NIMASA yesterday, the Committee asked the DG the reason behind the outsourcing of the debt recovery when the agency has a unit that can carry out the same job and queried if due process was followed in the selection of the firm given the job.

Responding, the Director General, Dr. Peterside Dakuku said it was erroneous to say NIMASA was owed $5 billion because the entire volume of shipping trade in Nigeria in the last four years was not up to $10 billion.

The Committee disputed the figure saying the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) alone did trade more than that amount, arguing further that the agency has a debt recovery unit that recovered about $15 million in 2015, the DG explained that debt recovery is a multi disciplinary task involving different professions.

Reacting on issues bordering on the award of debt recovery contract to Seneco, Peterside said due process was followed with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) fully involved.

According to him, “We complied with every provision of Public Procurement Act in selecting Seneco and we approached BPE and due to the urgency of the matter, they gave Certificate of No Objection.

“It is a global best practice to engage firms for recovery of debt. We did our background check on Seneco and we know it is a consortium of three firms,” he said.

The meeting was not adjourned until NIMASA was ordered to appear on the next hearing date with other relevant documents that will aid its investigation.