The House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety and Education yesterday questioned officials of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) over $286.6m outstanding revenues from the agency.
The committee also probed the $198m coastal line security contract awarded to an Israeli company to supply equipment and training services for waterways security and surveillance exercise along the Nigerian corridor of the Gulf of Guinea.
While raising questions concerning the processes of awarding the contracts based on a petition before it, the committee said that both the Ministry and NIMASA are accused of subverting due process and conflict of interest.
The committee therefore threatened to issue arrest warrant on companies and government agencies who failed to honour its invitation for the probe.
Speaking earlier, the committee chairman, Hon. Muhammed Umar Bago, said: “We want to make it clear that those who refused to come, if they are not here before the end of this hearing, we will have no option than to invoke our powers to arrest them.
“NIMASA has been accused to awarding fictitious contracts and the procurement of non-operational patrol vessels for surveillance on our waterways. Giving out contracts without due process, giving out contract to cronies, diversion of funds among other things”, he said.
Responding to the allegations, Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi who was represented by Mallam Shehu Aliyu, Director Procurement in the Ministry told lawmakers that the Ministry followed all due processes in the award of all contracts the minister was involved in.
Reading a letter from the Minister, Aliyu said HLSi Integration Ltd, the Israeli firm awarded the contract came into the picture via approval for the need for integrated national water way security administration.
He said the Ministry went through the Bureau of Public Procurement and obtained Certificates of no Objection to award the contract with representatives of service Chiefs, the Police and the Department of States Services (DSS) who formed the implementation committee.
He noted further that the committee held meetings with the National Security Adviser (NSA), with inputs from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation wherein it was decided that the House committee be brought into the know of the entire process and such was done.
“He said on April 30th, 2017, the Federal Executive Council directed that the Ministry should proceed with phase 1 of the contract which was why it obtained the Certificate of no Objection from the BPP to embark on the procurement.
“Letter of award was issued to Messrs HLSi which it accepted on June 5, enabling it to commence mobilisation with copies of same made available to the Attorney General of the Federation.
Speaking on behalf of NIMASA, Mr Gambo Ahmad, Executive Director, Maritime, Labour and Governing Services who represented the DG, Dakuku Peterside told the panel that there was no written response, adding that with every sense of modesty the Management of NNIMSA is not unaware of the damages of the past.
He said while former DGs of the agency have been accused of wrong doings, the current management is committed to transparency and accountability, adding that their books are open and they would provide any information needed as may be required.
As per the Deep Sea contract, he said nothing was done in hiding, that the documents are there for everyone to see.
On the part of the company at the middle of the storm, HLSi Director, Mr Tal Spektor said the contract which they came into Nigeria to execute followed due process, 100 percent.
Addressing the panel via a power point presentation, Spektor stated the necessity of the project regarding the security of Nigerian corridor in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said there are hundreds of thousands of vessels operating in the Gulf with absolute lack of security leading to smuggling, illegal fishing, bunkering and piracy, adding the Economic Zone of Nigeria is the busiest of all in the Gulf of Guinea with about 1025 drifting ships and others who come into Nigeria’s waterways endangering other ships.
He disclosed that since they activities commenced in the region, piracy on Nigerian waters has drastically reduced, saying that the aim was to increase income for NIMASA and boost Nigeria’s economy.