From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
The National Assembly at the weekend launched an investigation into the payment of N985 million for an elusive multi-billion naira diving support vessel for training of students at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State
The National Assembly has been appropriating money for the phantom 30-year-old vessel since 2009 during the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Joint Committees of the National Assembly on Gas, Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) made this discovery at the budget defence of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources last week.
The Senator Emmanuel Paulker-led joint committee immediately announced setting up of a committee that would comprise all the six committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Daily Sun gathered from documents tendered before the joint committee that the PTI had released over N985 million to Netsach Limited for the purchase of the vessel but it was yet to arrive Nigerian shores. A visit to Singapore by the Senate Petroleum Committee in May, 2010 failed to secure the vessel’s delivery as it was reportedly found in a bad shape. The Senate delegation later recommended that the vessel be repaired in Singapore and brought to Nigeria. Three years down the line, the vessel has remained a recurring decimal in the Institute’s fiscal budget with nothing to show for it.
In 2010, N173 million was budgeted for it, but N143.459 million was released. In 2011, another N203.693 million was budgetted and for 2012, about N915,759,651 has been proposed for the project. Contract for purchase of the “Excellent Diver” was awarded by late President Umar Yar’Adua’s administration to Netsach Limited in the sum of N1,117,330,873.31 on July 21, 2009. The contract document obtained from the ministry shows that 15% would be paid for mobilisation, 55% after purchase and 25% on delivery to PTI’s designated post in Nigeria.
However, the terms of payment were allegedly disregarded by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which released N957,131,611.29 to Netsach Limited, which on receiving the sum invited PTI for a sea trial that eventually failed, as the vessel could not sail.
It was gathered that the document of the vessel, MV BLUESTONE TOPAZ, showed that it was built over 30 years ago, contrary to a provision in the award letter signed by L. A. Ibrahim, which specified that the vessel should not be more than 10 years old. PTI reportedly paid N200 million to the contractor, following an addendum to the contract and a directive from the ministry by the then Director of Planning and Statistics, Emmanuel Izuegbu, to the Acting Principal to “take early action” on the addendum by releasing the money to Netsach.
The payment was part of the third instalment, which should have been made on delivery. Speaking at the budget defence, Senator Paulker declared that the joint committee will soon embark on exploration drive to secure the Vessel no matter where it is located. “I was chairman of the downstream petroleum committee for four years in the last National Assembly and the issue of that vessel was reflected in every year’s budget. This committee will like a comprehensive report on that vessel vis-a- vis the amount so far expended on it.
Turning to the PTI Acting Principal/Chief Executive, Mrs. C. N. Dennar who signed the agency’s 2009-2011budget performance submitted to the committed, Paulker continued:”You should also indicate as to whether the vessel we are about receiving is that very vessel we have been paying money for and then, it is very necessary we set up a joint committee among ourselves to go and see that vessel because the investment is much…
“There was no year, as chairman of the Downstream Committee that I didn’t see that the purchase of that vessel was not reflecting. We will set up a committee to go and see that vessel whether it is in England, or anywhere in this world.
“This is a very serious matter and we need to know,” he said. For 2012, PTI has budgeted a total of N11.153 billion with a whooping N10.237 going to personnel costs and overheads and just N915.75 million for capital expenditure.