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Gowon faults N8.8 billion ports contract
By Yetunde Majekodunmi, Maritime Reporter

FORMER Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), has asked the Federal Government to review an N8.8 billion ($70million) contract awarded last month to a Swiss Company for the supply of X-ray scanning machines and software.

The machines are to be installed at the various points of entry at Ikeja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Abuja.

Gowon, in a letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo dated June 16, 2003, expressed concern that the firm was awarded the contract to the exclusion of other bidders, contrary to the recommendations of the government's technical and financial consultants.

The former ruler specifically accused the Finance Ministry of engaging in underhand deals, which resulted in allowing the Swiss company to re-submits its bid one year after it was publicly opened. Gowon also faulted claims made by the firm of having experience to undertake and install similar scanning projects in Senegal and Ghana.

The former ruler also cautioned against awarding contracts of such magnitude and security implication to only one company.

He said: "Mr President, I feel that whatever was the reason the government of Ghana had for reviewing the company's original offer to handle the scanning operations of its two seaports and one airport, Nigeria should look at the wisdom of giving all the nation's six seaports, four airports and four border ports, to only one company." Gowon added: "I humbly advise and suggest that Your Excellency should appoint the three shortlisted scanning operators to provide the scanning operations. This will ensure fairness to all concerned and avoid Ghana's experience."

The Swiss company, one of the pre-shipment inspection agencies currently being used to inspect all imports into the country from their port of origin, was awarded the scanning machines contract last month.

The provision of the scanning machines, according to its proposal, will help improve the clearance system at all the nation's entry points as well as detect contrabands, and dangerous weapons concealed before entering the country.

The resort to the X-ray scanners became imperative because of Nigeria's resolve to adopt the destination inspections of imports regime, from January 2004. It will replace the pre-shipment inspection regime era which has been blamed for the discrepancies in clearance process at the points of entry as well as revenue leakages for the government.

Gowon whose letter was at the instance of one of the firms that bidded for the contracts, said in part:

"The managing director of the above company, a very responsible young man I know and trust, made a representation to me on the above subject matter and requested me to bring before you, for a review, as he felt his company was not given a fair treatment and consideration. His case is as follows:

His company bidded for the above subject matter, was short-listed and recommended by the Federal Government appointed technical and financial consultants to be the operator of X-ray scanning equipment and software for the under mentioned international airports namely Ikeja, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Kano. The company was invited amongst others viz: for an audio visual presentation before you, Mr. President, at the Conference Room, Presidential Villa, which they did, along with their technical partners;

"His company, and the other competitor felt that the Swiss company was unduly favoured by the Federal Ministry of Finance officials, who by their letter ref. No. F:2543/S111/30 of 5th August, 2002 allowed them to re-submit their bids one year after bids were publicly opened;

"By letter No.CF/492 of August 12, 2002, the financial consultants raised objection to the action of Federal Ministry of Finance officials and advised that it was an inappropriate and irregular to ask only one firm to re-submit a new bid. Doing so gave undue advantage to the Swiss firm.

"The Swiss firm was seen to have been given undue preference because of their claim that they had experience of undertaking and installing similar scanning projects in Senegal and Ghana. Since then, the Senegal claim has been found to be false, while that of Ghana has just been revised from them being the sole operator to only one of three scanning operators. This action speaks volume. The two new operators approved by the Ghanaian government for this project are Ghana Link Network Services Ltd and ICS Limited.

"Mr. President, I feel that whatever was the reason the government of Ghana had for reviewing the Swiss firm's original offer to handle the scanning operations of Ghana's two seaports and the one airport, Nigeria should look at the wisdom of giving all the nation's six seaports, four airports and four border-posts, to only one company. I humbly advise and suggest that Your Excellency should appoint the three short-listed scanning operators, to provide the scanning operations. This will ensure fairness to all concerned and avoid Ghana's experience."

 

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