By Ajibola Abayomi,
March 26, 2018.
As top officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) keep mum over the controversial US$420 million maritime security contract awarded since last year, The LeadOnline can authoritatively report that senior staff of the Federal Ministry of Transport in Abuja are presently jittery.
Both the Minister of Transport and Director General of NIMASA, Rotimi Amaechi and Dr Peterside Dakuku respectively were said to directly involved in the deal.
Following the exposure of a massive bribery scandal involved in the deal weeks ago three officials of the shipyard involved in building platforms for the NIMASA maritime security contract were arrested in Israel.
They were arrested based on the suspicion of bribing Nigerian government officials over the project.
NIMASA’s Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, Isichei Osamgbi, would neither pick his call nor respond to text messages on his mobile phone owing to reasons best known to him.
However we gathered that the Israelis, top officials of Israeli Shipyards, a former government owned facility which is now in private hands were arrested on charges of bribing Nigerian government officials to obtain security contract worth “tens of millions of dollars”.
The officials of the shipyard known to be Israel’s largest shipbuilding facility and also one of the biggest in the Eastern Mediterranean coast were picked up following raids on the company’s Port of Haifa offices by Israeli security agencies aided by other international anti-graft organisations.
The raid itself according to the Beam Magazine followed several months of investigation conducted by the Israeli police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit along with the Israel Tax Authority and international law enforcement bodies.
The three top officials of the shipyard have since been detained under caution and are being questioned over allegations of bribing a foreign public official, false registration in corporate documents, fraud, money laundering, tax offenses and breaking a law that regulates security-related exports.
Now top officials of the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMoT) and NIMASA in Lagos have been gripped by fear over revelations turned up by the on-going Israeli probe.
Industry watchers are keen to know how the vessel procurement deal gone awry will affect the entire maritime security arrangement midwifed by Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the NIMASA Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
The entire contract, details of which are shrouded in secrecy, is estimated to be valued at US$615 million.
At the time when it was first unveiled, the waterway security contract was to be split into two parts with one part given out at US$420 million and another US$195 million going to an Israeli firm, HSU Security and Technology.
The arrests in Haifa, Israel is anchored only on US$186 million contract awarded to the Israeli Shipyards.
It is not known exactly how much the total contract value awarded to HSLI Security and Technology firm amounted to. Neither are information regarding the other US$420 million tranche available in the public domain.
In 2017, Amaechi revealed that the federal government was awarding a three-year contract for patrolling the nation’s maritime domain and training Nigerian military personnel on water security, which was targeted at saving huge security cost for operators in the maritime sector.
A few years ago, this same contract was given out to Global West Vessel Specialists (GWVS) allegedly owned by Captain Romeo Itina, a former NIMASA Director who died at the Escravos in controversial circumstances and billionaire Niger Delta militant king pin, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka. Tompolo) at US$102 million, a sum which was, even then, considered outrageous by Amaechi who was then the Rivers State Governor.