Left-Right: Director, Western Zone, NIMASA, Mr Olayemi Abbass, Director General, NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside and the Director, Strategic Reform, Mr Sani Muhammed at a Press Conference in Lagos.
Two months after President Muhammadu Buhari terminated the $195million maritime security contract awarded to an Israeli firm HSLi, fresh indications have emerged that the president has reversed himself and reinstated the contract.
Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safely Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Dakuku Peterside at a breakfast session with maritime journalists in Lagos yesterday confirmed that the contract was still on course.
This is even as the DG confirmed that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) has now accrued a whopping $124millionPeterside argued that contrary to insinuations that the contractor; HSLi was awarded the contract to take over maritime security in Nigeria, he said the contract was mainly for acquisition of special mission aircraft, special mission helicopters and 12 fast intervention vessels for the Nigerian Navy as well as a command and control centre.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that the security contract was signed by the Federal Executive Council in December 2017 amidst protests from maritime industry professionals; it was later cancelled in May 2018 by the President over allegations of fraud.
But speaking with journalists, the NIMASA boss stated that "they (contractors) are supposed to deliver a number of items such as special mission vessels, special mission aircrafts, special mission helicopters, command and control center and also retrain a number of our military personnel , that contract is still in place, nobody has cancelled it"
"At some point there were issues raised about the status of the firm, and indeed the president directed that investigations should be carried out on the status and record of the firm, the firm was further investigated and given a clean bill of health and of course we are still on with that project"
"For us, tackling maritime crime is a top priority issue, there is no way anybody can ignore it because it does not put us in good light at the international community"
The NIMASA boss assured that the CVFF fund at the last check has gathered $124million and that the fund is still resided at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
He assured that the fund would be disbursed to Nigerian ship owners between now and year 2019. He assured that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi is desirous of distributing the fund and that he has ordered a quick review of the guidelines for distribution.
Peterside also did that the agency has grown compliance in the Nigerian maritime industry to the International Ships and Ports Facility Security Code (ISPS) code from 13% to 80%, even as he said that this has been commended by the Department of Transportation in the United States as well as the US Coast Guard.
He also said that the agency has reactivated its maritime domain awareness facility which is the satellite surveillance system which provides a bird’s eye view of the entire maritime space.
He said that the major challenge is to build human capacity to respond to issues identified.
"We are working closely to train a new set of military men because we are not allowed to bear arms, so we would train them on maritime security surveillance"
"We are concerned about cases of piracy within our waterways; NIMASA, working through the Maritime Guard Command has increased surveillance within the waterways in partnership with the Nigerian Navy"
Peterside also said that Buhari has ordered the NIMASA helicopter to be forfeited to the Nigerian Navy and that the agency is now on the verge of acquiring a new helicopter
"NIMASA some years ago acquired a search and rescue helicopter, but because we don't have the capacity to man it, the manning was given to the Nigerian Navy, recently there was a review based on correspondence from the Minister of Defence, the President directed that the helicopter should be handed over to the Nigerian Navy"
"The argument is that the helicopter has been phased out of search and rescue operation and that new acquisition approved by the Federal Executive Council will cover a helicopter that can work for us in our search and rescue function” he explained.