•Threaten to invoke parliamentary powers against Customs Comptroller General, others
Members of the House of Representatives on Friday were shocked to the marrow as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) publicly justified the sales of 82 vehicles for the sum of N5.8 million over the past 12 years.
Trouble started when the NIMASA Executive Director, Mr. Chudi Offodile, announced during the resumed investigative hearing into the disposal of public property by the Agencies between 2010 and 2022 to unravel the extent of illegal auctioning of public property and non-remittance of revenue realised into the Consolidated Revenue Fund’, chaired by Hon. Julius Ihonbvere, that due process was followed.
The documents presented and obtained by the Nigerian Tribune showed that a Peugeot Expert Ambulance with a market value of N200,000 was sold at a forced liquidation or auction value of N95,000; a Honda Civic Saloon Car with a market value of N170,000 was sold at N76,500; a Toyota Hilux (Grounded) with a market value of N300,000 was sold at N140,000; another Toyota Hilux (Accidental) with a market value of N200,000 was sold at N96,000; and another Toyota Hilux (Grounded) with a market value of N250,000 was sold at N115,000.
In the same vein, two units of Toyota Hilux, which were at the time of inspection in the custody of Carbotage Consultant in Lagos and put at N1 million market value, were sold at N470,000 each for forced liquidation or auction value; a Honda Civic put at N210,000 was sold at N95,000; a Honda City put at N190,000 market value was sold at N80,000, among others.
Through its office in Abuja, a Toyota Hilux put at N500,000 market value was sold at N245,000; a Toyota Avensis put at N300,000 market value was sold at N145,000; a Toyota Corolla put at N300,000 market value was sold at N147,000; and two units of Honda Civic put at N90,000 market value were sold at N30,000 each, among others.
Other lawmakers who spoke during the investigative hearing demanded documentary evidence of funds remitted into the CRF account as provided by extant provisions of the Procurement Act, Proceeds of Crimes Act, and other known legislation or financial regulations.
In his presentation, Mr Offodile, who denied knowledge of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 on the remittance of the funds generated from the sale of public assets, however, affirmed that the proceeds of sales were paid by the Auctioneers into NIMASA’s coffers.
When asked whether the Agency has a mechanic’s workshop where faulty vehicles can be repaired, Mr. Offodile answered in the negative.
While expressing surprise that most of the vehicles displayed in the document presented to the Ad-hoc Committee didn’t show that they are old or not in good condition, Hon. Ihonbvere said: “Looking at them (pictures of vehicles captured in the documents), some of them are looking new,” adding that for Nigerians, a 13-year-old Toyota Hilux is not old.”
Hon. Ihonbvere thereafter narrated how a former Edo State Governor engaged a female mechanic to fix some of the vehicles tagged as unserviceable and recovered over 100 vehicles while other spare parts were stored.
He explained that over 100 vehicles fixed by the female mechanic were deployed to various MDAs, thereby blocking financial leakages.
Hon. Ihonbvere specifically expressed concern over the rationale behind the placement of an advertisement on March 29, 2022, calling for a public auction of NIMASA vehicles and the sale of all the vehicles on March 30, 2022, through forced liquidation or auction.
While alleging that the move “leaves us with the impression that it’s a pre-arrangement,” the Majority Leader argued that the process contravened the extant Public Procurement Act to dispose of public assets within 24 hours.
Hon. Ihonbvere, who disclosed that the Ad-hoc Committee is in the custody of petitions against NIMASA alleging that the vehicles were sold to some officials and staff of the Agency, maintained that the Auctioneers engaged by NIMASA were merely hired to rubber stamp the fictitious insider trading.
Hence, the lawmakers requested a list of all the Auctioneers as well as beneficiaries of the vehicles, the original cost of the vehicles and invoices, a letter of contract awards for the auctioning of the assets to the auctioneers, and relevant approvals obtained from the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing as well as the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).
One of the lawmakers expressed worry about why the Agency only carried out sales of vehicles and did not have any record of sales of computers and other office equipment within the period under review.
Hon. Ihonbvere, who requested the registers of all the assets of NIMASA and other MDAs, disclosed that the asset registers would be computerised in the state-of-the-art library, which is currently under construction within the National Assembly complex, to be commissioned by the end of September 2023.
In the same vein, the lawmakers quizzed the Sokoto River Basin’s delegation over indiscriminate sales of public assets to the management of the Agency in breach of the extant Public Procurement Act at ridiculous prices.
To this end, Hon. Ihonbvere directed the delegation from NIMASA and the Sokoto River Basin to provide relevant documents that will aid the ongoing investigation. The ad hoc Committee is expected to resume hearings on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.