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Coalition, NIMASA disagree over $195m waterway security contract

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A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has called on the National Assembly to investigate the circumstances surrounding the award of a $195million security contract to secure Nigeria’s waterways to a foreign firm.

The coalition claimed that the contract, which was awarded to an Israeli firm, HSLI Security Systems was done illegally and in a shoddy manner.

At a news conference on Wednesday, National Coordinator, Empowerment for Unemployed Youth Initiative, Comr. Solomon Adodo, who spoke on behalf of the group, said ceding of the nation’s waterways to the exclusive control of a foreign firm is an avenue to divert Nigeria’s oil for selfish interest and personal gains.

Besides, he argued, ceding such a critical national asset to a foreign firm will undermine the constitutional role of the Nigerian Armed Forces, as prescribed by law and will expose the country to security risks and ridicule among the comity of nations.

The Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Isichei Osambgi, said the allegation was baseless, claiming that the contract followed due process.

“There is nothing like illegally awarded. This government is a very serious one that always follows due process. If anyone claimed that the contract was awarded illegally, let them prove it with documents,” he said.

Adodo recalled that the move to award the contract to the said firm in 2017, was rejected by the National Assembly and terminated by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018, for being fraudulent.

He however expressed concern that after such public outcry and reversal, the contract was awarded and captured in the nation’s 2018 and 2019 budgets.

The coalition said: “Our cry was premised on the fact that the said contract has grave national security implication, owing to the ceding of the control of our waterways to a foreign firm, which is a gross violation of our status as a sovereign nation. It should be emphasized that all over the world no nation leaves affairs of national security totally in the command and control of a private firm. Nigeria should therefore not be an exception.

“To our consternation and dismay, however, our findings indicate that enemies of our commonwealth, who seek to cast aspersions on the good government of President Buhari just to achieve their selfish ends smuggled the said contract into the 2018 and 2019 National Budget, to finance the contract which had already been reversed by the President.

“The desperation to go ahead with this contract despite its grave implications of economic sabotage and national security compromise raises very strong questions. Let it not be lost on us that this contract was entered into between the Federal Ministry of Transportation and HLSI whereas the Contract is a security contract for which the Ministry of Defence should have appropriately handled.

“Furthermore, the firm awarded the contract has no sound antecedents of handling contracts of this magnitude; we must, therefore, make all efforts to avoid the pitfalls and challenges Nigeria encountered with the P&ID contract.

“It is also on record that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is caught in a web of conflict of interest considering the fact that the company being awarded the contract has links with him, in the light of the fact that the company handled contracts for the Rivers State Government while he served as Governor of the State.

“We, therefore, use this medium to cry out to the National Assembly, to come to the rescue of Nigeria and Nigerians again. This massive fraud and attempt to surreptitiously hijack national security must not be allowed to stand. In the same vein, we herein use this medium to call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to rise and decisively deal with all those culpable of flouting the status quo pertaining to the reversal of the said contract.”

The group urged the National Assembly to call the Minister of Transportation to order, and put the interest and security of Nigeria first, and not to expose the nation to further security and economic dangers, adding that all payments made to the contractor should be retrieved and refunded into the budget.


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