Amaechi In Trouble Over Maritime Security Contract
By Bayo Bernard
The Director General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside has a big cause for worry over his job. In the last few weeks, the boyish looking boss of the top maritime regulatory agency has been faced with a barrage of criticism, particularly from keen stakeholders in the industry with vast knowledge of the workings of the agency and the sector at large, who are calling for his sack.
The magazine learnt that top management of the agency including its Board of Directors led by Major Gen. Jonathan Garba (rtd) have become worried over call by stakeholders to President Muhammadu Buhari to give the NIMASA management the boot. As a result, the director general has been reaching out to top politicians in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in Abuja to save his job.
Minister of Transportation and former Governor of Rivers state, Chibuike Amaechi has been lobbying the Presidency seriously to prevent Peterside from being sacked, a source told the magazine, adding that some close aides of President Buhari are unhappy with the management style of Peterside.
Top players in the sector are also not happy that two years down the line the failed governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Rivers state has failed in his capacity as NIMASA DG in the last two years.
The first salvo against the NIMASA boss was fired recently by Greg Ogbeifun, President, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria who said Peterside should be sacked for the woeful outing of Nigeria in last year’s International Maritime Organization, IMO election. The IMO is an organ of the United Nations, UN made up of more than 176 countries.
Nigeria had contested for the Council membership in the ‘Category C’ of the elite international maritime body, but failed. She lost to countries like Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica and Kenya. Others countries elected are Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turky.
The failure to secure a seat, Ogbeifun stated, was a signal that the current management of the agency lacked focus as a flag administration.
Ogbeifun stated this while speaking at SOAN end of year dinner in Lagos, hear him “The event at the recent IMO elections into Category C of the Council where Nigeria lost and actually came second to the last position” is enough ground to take a look at the management of the agency and if necessary sack the Peterside-led management , on the account of non-performance, or incompetence.”
The agency has failed as a flag administration he said: “That our flag administration is extremely weak such that the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) which owns a large trading worldwide is unable to register their ships in the Nigerian flag and boost our tonnage. Instead, they have all their ships registered in foreign Flags of Convenience. NLNG actually approached our flag administration to express their desire and preference to register all their ships in Nigeria if the flag administration can be enhanced and reorganized to meet international standards.
“They went further and paid for a Consultant to carry out a study of our Flag Administration and make recommendations to achieve this objective. The report and recommendation have been awaiting implementation by the Maritime Administration since then, over three years ago,” Ogbeifun stated.
Adding “That the Honorable Minister of Transportation on assumption of office and with promptings from stakeholders set up a committee to study and make recommendations for the revamping and restructuring of our flag administration to make it more attractive for international patronage. A team of sound professionals worked assiduously to produce a comprehensive report and recommendations to achieve the objective but there has not been the political will to implement the recommendations of that report.
“That our own Maritime Administration, instead of engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, ship-owners, ship-repairers and Maritime Security providers to grow the Industry, they only specialize in collecting levies and revenues and meting out punitive measures on these stakeholders such as ship owners whose arrests, threats to arrest, and shutdown of ship repair yards with the accompanying consequences to the Industry which the International Maritime Communities and the IMO are observing,” he said.
Other stakeholders such as the President, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents, NAMDLCA, Lucky Amiwero has no kind words for Peterside. Amiwero is sharp and straight in his position that the agency management has no direction, Peterside has failed said.
”Dakuku Peterside has failed in the core function of NIMASA’s responsibility. He should read, acquaint himself with and diligently apply Section 42 of the Cabotage Act 2003; Sections 16,17 and 18 of the NIMASA Act 2007.
”These pieces of legislation, when married with the Nigeria Local Content Law 2010 will boost the economy by building the capacity of Nigerians through real empowerment like releasing monies meant for the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF).
”According to the law, twenty five percent of NIMASA fund is supposed to be used for capacity building. Placing such money in any account, be it Treasury Single Account or any other purpose is unlawful
”Deploying the money to any other purpose is also a violation of Section 22k of the NIMASA law which directs that it be used to build shipping infrastructure. He has failed to comply with this.
”Any other purpose for which such monies are being deployed is an illegality as it is unlawful diversion. I urgently call on the National Assembly to intensify it’s oversight on NIMASA to prevent such diversion
”The very expensive seminars and costly travels he engages in are not enough to hold on to as achievements in the last two years.He should learn from the United States re -modified Jones Act which incorporates a fleet expansion programme .
”He is empowered by our laws to impact on our economy and this should be his focus. I advise him to resist the temptation of diverting maritime and cabotage funds for any reason other than what they are meant for
”These monies are not NIMASA money, they should not be idling away in any other account other than being disbursed to the indigenous investors and practitioners who will create more wealth and grow the economy.”
Amiwero suggests that deep seated corruption is ongoing in the agency, warning Peterside to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors. ”He should be guided to avoid being a subject of probe when a new government takes charge after his tenure. I expect him to learn from his predecessor’s mistakes,” he stated.
The warning came on the tail of the arrest of some Israeli businessmen allegedly connected with over $400m security contract signed last year by NIMASA with an Israeli firm. Reporting the allege scam, an online medium The Beam said the contract midwifed by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has now become a subject of investigations by Isreali security agencies, who are trying to unearth facts that some Nigeria officials received huge bribe to facilitate the contract.
According to the medium, senior officials of the Federal Ministry of Transport in Abuja and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) are presently jittery following the exposure of a massive bribery scandal in the controversial US$420 million maritime security contract awarded last year.
Already three officials of the shipyard involved in building platforms for the NIMASA maritime security contract were arrested in Israel on suspicion of bribing Nigerian government officials over the project, it also said.
Though the detail of the contract has remained a top secret, the magazine learnt that part of the multi-million dollar contract was awarded to HSU Security and Technology for $195 million.
At the time of awarding the contract last year the minister of transport assured Nigerians that the contract of patrolling the nation’s maritime domain and training the personnel of the Nigerian Navy on maritime security will not come at a huge cost to the country. obviously, this has turned out a lie, considering the allege scam now surrounding the contract, said David Adeyemi, an expert in public accounting and procurement.
Recall that the same contract was initially awarded to Global West Vessel Specialists (GWVS) believed to be owned by repentant Niger Delta militant king pin, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka. Tompolo, for US$102 million, but was later terminated by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government in 2015.
Despite the call for his sack, the former member of the National Assembly, believes he has done well in the face of seeming challenges facing the agency. Concerning the failed bid to secure a position in IMO, Peterside blamed the surge in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea , adding that Nigeria was misunderstood by IMO members who failed to acknowledge progress the country has recorded in the fight against piracy, since he became the agency boss. The NIMASA DG had described the money spent on the election as” barely” N100 million.”
Apart from the maritime public, the House of Representatives recently issued the agency a yellow card over poor implementation of N42 billion 2017 capital votes for the agency.
The House Committee on Maritime Education, Safety and Administration led by its Chairman, Umaru Bago Mohammed, had frowned at the fact that the apex maritime regulatory agency spent barely N5 billion, out of the approved fund.
The committee, therefore, threatened to slash the agency’s allocation to N5 billion in the next budget except it utilized the fund.
As things currently stand, Peterside has his job on the line, particularly, following the dusts raised over the allege scam surrounding the maritime security contract.