Stinking NIMASA

By  Stephen Ubanna

For  much of last year and now, there had been rumours making the rounds that the  Dakuku Peterside led Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency , NIMASA,  is stinking  but nobody took it serious. The situation  was so bad that the House of Representatives  was flooded with petitions from 10 Human Rights Organisations to probe the agency  over alleged fictitious award of contracts and diversion of $492 million.

The petitioners had  alleged that  officials and the ministry of Transport had collected  bribes  from   the Isreali owned  HLS International to prepare the ground  for the company to  get the contract for the security surveillance of Nigeria’s territorial waters and renovation of its Lagos head office.  The contract for the surveillance of the country’s coastal waters was i  warded to  Government  Ekpemupolo,  popular, Tompolo,  at the instance of former President  Goodluck Jonathan before it was terminated by President Muhammadu Buhari on the recommendation of  Rotimi ChibuikeAmechi, the minister of Transport. The termination of the contract may have provided opportunity  for Amaechi and Peterside to shop for another firm to handle the multi-million contract.

The magazine  learnt that there were several companies, both indigenous and foreign which had  bided for the contract  but the ministry and the agency officials were said to have settled the Isreali owned firm, HLS International, because of alleged promises of going to take  care of their interests which  had been built into the contract sum.  The worth of the contract was said to be  $196 million but  inflated by $286 million bringing the total cost  to $492 million. This is in addition to  the $10 million head office renovation contract  awarde to the company also.

The petitioners have every reason to worry about the reckless ward  of contracts and diversion of funds in NIMASA  because of the 2019 general election which  fast is approaching  as theNIMASA  Director General has a governorship ambition on the ticket of  All Progressive Congress, APC, in Rivers state and tneeded funds to prosecute  the project.

Dakuku Peterside: Under Probe By The House

Yakubu Dogara, the House Speaker, may have seen interested in  getting the House Maritme  Safety Committee which  was already handling a similar probe in the agency  to  go ahead with impending probe as well because of their similarities. This is because of the huge amount involved:  $492 million, believed to have been diverted  in the agency.  The 10 Human Rights Organisations who petitioned the insists that the House must get to the root  of the matter because of the rot in the agency.

Already, Dogara,  has mandated the  Committee to probe the allegation and report back to the House. Umar Bargo, Chairman of the Committee , has promised  to get to the root of the matter  to unravel the leakage  of  over  286 million deep water  security surveillance contracts  worth  $196 million  to the Isreali firm.

He confirmed  that there had been petitions   over fictitious  and questionable contract  that were said to have been  awarded  by NIMASA for non operational boats, security  surveillance, revenue leakages, suspicious  forex transactions and cronyism. But the NIMASA boss has told those that cares to listen that he was not bothered  by the probe as he has nothing to hide  as the award of the contracts followed ” due process”.

In spite of the invitations sent to Amaechi, the and Peterside, the principal actors  in the award of the multi-million contracts  to the Ireali security firm by the House Committee, they were said to have refused to show up. Instead , the duo sent representatives , arming them with the necessary information about the alleged contract  and other issues raised by the petitioners.

Gambo Ahmed, the agency  Executive Director, Maritime  Governance  was said to have confirmed  at the meeting with the House  Committee  on Maritime Safety that it actually  awarded contracts   for the country territorial waters and renovation of the head office but said ” due process was followed”.

Shehu Aliyu, Director of the ministry Department of Procurement who represented Amaechi, the minister of Transport corroborated his views. Aliyu had told the lawmakers  that all contracts  awarded by the agency  ”followed due process and were in the interests of  Nigeria”. Tai Prector, the Head of the Isreali firm in Nigeria  who could not  understand why the company was being dragged to the House Committee said the contract awarded to the company  were open and transparent.

An aggrieved Prector  said Nigeria should be grateful  because they were working according to the mandate given to them as they have been protecting  the Nigeria waterways  along the  Gulf of Guinea, using high powered  satellites, helicopters and speed boats against  the menace of piracy, human trafficking  and illegal fishing.

Prior to the ongoing probe of the agency by the House Committee on Maritime Safety over alleged diversion of  funds, the Committee was already  probing the agency  of fictitious  awards of contracts and gross mismanagement of funds . The lawmakers  had continously expressed concern  over the questionable awards of contracts , fraudulent forex transactions and other unwholesome  and corrupt practices in the agency. They confirmed that there had been several allegations  of questionable , inflated and  fictitious contracts  awarded by the agency, particlar, for non operational speed boats , security surveillance  known as  Deep Blue Contract, ‘revenue leakages and the award of contracts to cronies of the Director General and other top management of the agency and suspicious forex transactions.

There had been reports  of under remittances  of debts  owed the country  by shipping firms   with the  support and alleged connivance of NIMASA officials. The agency past management  was said to have also entered    into a dubious contract  with the company ” EXPO Marine limited , for the lease of six speed boats , each at the rate of $173,930 monthly without a need of assessment for such facility being carried out  by relevant Departments of the agency.

This is a company that  was said to have been blacklisted for defrauding the agency  to the tune of  $80,000 in revenue. The security surveillance contract  called Deep Blue Wter Contract is regarded in maritime cycles as a  conduit  pipe  by past and present management of the agency  to divert funds .It was not surprising why people are looking at HLS, Isreali firm security surveillance contract with suspicision.

It would be recalled  that  one  Uche Emenalo , a businessman who was  awarded a contract  for  the provision of  security related  devises,  by the then management of the agency  headed by Patrick Akpobolokemi  but claimed  that  he never submitted  any applications   to the agency tender’s board  for the job.

The Imo state born businessman was said to have got  N600,000.00 from the racket. There are many of such ficticious contracts in the agency . The agency collects  three percent freight charges from ships that call at the nation’s ports , which run into millions of dollars  monthly unknown to the Central of Bank of Nigeria, CBN. Akpobbolokemi, the former NIMASA boss  may have been dragged to Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFFC, for allegedly  diverting of  N2.6 billion and defrauding the government of  N795.2 million.  This is a lesson for other top management of NIMASA.

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