Controversy has erupted in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Abuja, over the N1.1 billion paid to a contractor for the supply of a dive support sea-going vessel to the Federal Government-owned Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Effurun, near Warri, Delta State.
The Auditor-General of the Federation, in a report, had recommended that the contractor should refund the money. In the report signed by the Director, Programme and Performance, Audit Department, Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, A.O. Ajao, said the money should be refunded “with interest to the Federal Government of Nigeria immediately.”
The fresh ripples in the ministry over the vessel, followed an order, last week, by the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), on the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the contractor to appear before it to explain the circumstances surrounding the payment of the money for a contract that was not performed.
Our source said the facts of the contract swindle were not disclosed to the minister, as some powerful officials of the ministry were involved in the deal.
The committee, led by Hon Ajibola Muraina, decided the summon the minister and contractor when it became obvious that the vessel, which had not been supplied to the institute, three years after it was supposed to have been delivered, had allegedly attracted a demurrage of over N600 million at $2,000 per day.
Muraina said the Acting Principal/Chief Executive of PTI, Mrs. Nnenna Dennar, informed the committee that the dive support sea-going vessel was in the custody of the Nigerian Embassy at Singapore, but information at the disposal of the National Assembly indicated that the vessel might not even be in existence and the facts of its non-existence had to be established.
Members of the House committee, who were on an oversight function, were taken aback when they were told that another N900 million was required to convert the vessel to a dive-support ship , almost the equivalent of what was used to purchase the vessel itself.
It was obvious that the entire deal was between the contractor and some persons in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Abuja, which awarded the contract in 2009, hence the committee decided to summon the minister and contractor.
“To us in the National Assembly, the vessel may not be existing, if you are paying demurrage, it means you have taken delivery, you have not taken ownership”, Muraina stated.
He said the committee was interested in knowing the terms of the agreement between the contractor and PTI; at what point the institute was supposed to have taken delivery of the vessel and what happened; and the agents or consultant between the contractor and government.