Senators, on Tuesday, condemned move by the federal government to concede surveillance of the nation’s waterways to an Israeli firm, HSIL.
Findings revealed that the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had in 2017 revealed that his Ministry had signed a three-year contract with HSIL for the sum of $195.3million.
According to Honourable Amaechi, the contract would see the firm train members of the Nigerian military personnel on water security.
Fresh facts emerged yesterday at a joint investigative hearing of the Senate Committee on Marine, Navy and Finance that the deal was meant to upstage an indigenous firm, Ocean Marine Safety Limited which has an existing Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy for the security of vessels on Secured Anchorage Area.
Senators who spoke at the sitting expressed concern over the grave threat to national security.
Asked by Chairman of the Joint Senate Committee on Marine, Navy and Finance, Senator George Sekibo, if he was aware of the contract, Rear Admiral Tarimorio Dick, who represented the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok – Ete told the senators that that he was aware of ” a contract like that ongoing and that facilities are being provided. I am aware.”
He further revealed that HSIL would be providing some platforms for the Nigerian Navy.
”The vessels they are providing for us have not arrived Nigeria, but there will be weapons on these vessels.
”The vessels will be manned by Nigerian Navy personnel. As I speak, one of the vessels is on the way. We have nine of our personnel on board that vessel.”
Admiral Dick was however evasive in his response to Senator Olamilekan Adeola question on arms and ammunition from Israel attached to the vessel.
”What I said is that I am aware that it exists. I am aware that the vessel is on the way. I am aware that the vessel will be armed. I didn’t tell you where the arms are now.”
In his presentation, Chairman of the indigenous security firm, Ocean Marine Safety Limited, Captain Hosea Okunbor, whose contract was terminated by the Nigerian Ports Authority accused the management of the NPA of terminating the contract on the pages of national newspapers without prior correspondence.
”We did a proper proposal which we submitted to the Navy and the Navy said as long as it is of no cost to the Government and that was how we embarked on this business. Having procured this equipment and have been in business for 6 years at what time did NPA call us to say we are making so much money here let us make the money together, you make money we want to rent your vessel we will agree.
”No discussion only to be sacked on the pages of newspapers after this investments. What is painful is that they denigrate my image and my integrity. I don’t do business because of money, I have served this country meritoriously with my integrity intact I have 50 vessels with the Navy that if we will go to war, they don’t need to contact us that is the extent of the commitment, national development sir. Our records are there in NNPC, our records are there in International Oil Companies.
”What is paining me is my integrity that NPA did not contact us for meeting, they never wrote us to say you are terminated, they never called us for anything at all. If I am stealing in your house, how will it take you six years before you know I am a thief? You sack me and cast aspersions on my integrity.
”Navy, it is obvious you have been aware they wanted to dismantle Secured Anchorage Area, did you call Ocean Marine Safety to say this is the plan of NPA. So we stood in gap for you and for this country. You tell me to stop we will stop but the onus rests on you to tell us because you gave us MOU. We should have been informed. With over fifty vessels with you, with all the investments you throw it through the window and denigrate my character that is unacceptable.”
Earlier in her presentation, Managing Director of the NPA accused the Navy of handing three vessels it procured to safeguard the Lagos Anchorage and offshore waters within the Lagos Pilotage District to the private firm, OMSL in the Secured Anchorage Area.
She argued that the NPA ” is of the view that the continued operation of the facility by the private entity (OMSL) is an unnecessary fixation that seeks to add to vessels calling at the ports. To the extent that additional security is required for the anchorage such should be provided by the agency with statutory responsibility of providing same at no charge to vessels owners.”