League of Maritime Editors writes N’Assembly, EFCC over House Committee’s shoddy oversight functions In CRFFN, seeks fresh probe

The League of Maritime Editors and Publishers has written the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabimiala, over a shoddy oversight function carried out by the immediate past House Committee on Ports, Harbour and Waterways (PHW) chaired by Hon. Pat Asadu on the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) early last year, demanding a fresh probe to unravel the truth.

The League has also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to make public its investigations on the wanton diversion of funds through capital projects budgetary appropriation in three consecutive and successive years in CRFFN, which has both physical and documentary evidences circulating in private and public circles, to exonerate itself from the allegation of compromise.

In a State of the Nation statement signed by its President and Secretary, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke and Mr.Francis Ugwoke, respectively, the League said it is particularly worried that the former members of the House Committee on PHW failed Nigerians and the maritime sector over the way and manner they conducted a probe on the Council’s activities and projects executed in the past by certifying a fraudulent process free of malfeasance.

The League recalls that members of the House Committee on PHW had last year invited the management of CRFFN to an Investigative Hearing session chaired by Hon. Ossy Chinedu Prestige, a forum where concerns on financial and administrative infractions in most of the projects executed by the CRFFN management were raised.

Afterwards, the House had mandated its members in the Committee to investigate the allegations, an assignment that was concluded in May last year.

But the League gathered that during the probe, the House Committee members were simply given a hand-out or deceived on the different status of the projects which were claimed to be under 80-90 percent completion, an assertion which has been discovered to be false.

According to the statement, the League wants the Speaker of the House of Representatives to assign another Committee to undertake a serious probe on the status of the buildings or capital projects, among others that have been executed by the Council in the past few years for the stakeholders in the maritime industry and indeed other Nigerians to know the truth.

The League accused members of the Committee of having been heavily compromised on their national assignment, adding that if a new probe is not instituted, the freight forwarding industry which is being regulated by the Council will suffer.

Such probe, according to the League, has even become imperative considering that the CRFFN will soon commence the collection of Port Operating Fees(POF) from members which will run into billions of Naira in which lack of transparency and accountability will not be in the best interest of the freight forwarding industry.

The League added that the probe has even become very necessary as the same former House Committee approved other fraudulent projects worth over N100 million in questionable manner in the 2019 budget.

The League said its investigation showed that the claim on the projects executed in some states was a big lie that will shock the industry when the truth is revealed.

According to the group, members of the Council who were elected early last year have already gone round the places where the projects were sited but were compelled to keep sealed lips over their findings, one of the reasons the new House leadership needs to intervene in the matter.

The League further expressed concerns that the present leadership of the Council has already given a clean slate to the former leadership of the CRFFN simply to protect them and probably for reason that they also have padded the 2019 budget with fake projects for personal gains in consolation.

The League has already gone round to take on the spot assessment of the of the said projects, while noting that it is important to probe the spate of the funds allocation for security appliances said to have been used by a professional regulatory council which is not a security outfit.

Observing that the bidding and contract award process lacks transparency, the group alleged that the true ownership of the 12 companies selected for the contract awards is questionable. Consequently, they called on the EFCC to undertake its statutory investigative obligation.

The League further asserted that a critical review of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 CRFFN budgets shows a carryover of the same capital budget provision for a given project awarded in previous years on the basis of build, furnish, and deliver.