Secure Anchorage Contract: Unending War Between Amaechi And Okunbo, Chairman, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited

By Stephen Ubanna

The last  may  not have been heard about the cancellation of the Ocean Marine Solutions  Limited, OMSL, secure anchorage area contract by Hajia Zainab Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, at the instance of Rotimi Amechi, Federal  minister of Transport.

The termination, of the   deal between the OMSL and the Nigerian Navy, NN,  which was  said to have been signed in 2007, appears to have drawn  the battle line  between Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and the minister of Transport  with  Hosa Okunbo, a retired Naval Captain and Chairman, OMSL, with the death of Augustus Aikhomu,  a Rear Admiral,  and  former Chief of Staff, Supreme military Council,  under former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, a retired Army General, and the first  chairman of the  Company and  who  was said to have developed  the idea for the Maritime outfit.

 Giving  reasons for the cancellation of  the secure anchorage contract signed  between  OMSL and the Navy,  the minister, had said  that ’’the company did not get the approval of  the government  to operate  in  the so –called  secure anchorage area’’. More so, he said the Okunbo’s security company was ‘’grossly inefficient as it was  laced with fraud’’.   

 He disclosed  that  OMSL, which claimed to be providing security to vessels in Nigeria waters was only after the money it was making from the vessel owners. According to him, the company charges each vessel  found  in Nigeria waters $2,500

. He noted that after that initial payment, OMSL, subsequent  charges  the vessel owners  $1,500  every other day. The minister’ s worry was that the money collected from the ship owners for providing security  to their vessels in Nigeria waters  in the secure anchorage area  are not paid back into the  government Account but into the company’s  Account.  Amaechi had put the total amount collected from the activity by OMSL, throughout the period of its operations in Nigerian waters before the  cancellation of the contract  at about $17 million.

Hajia Hadiza Usman: MD, NPA

An aggrieved Aaechi, was said to have hallenged Okunbo, to defend  his claims that his Company , OMSL, was doing a good work in providing security for vessels in Nigerian waters. He had  asked him to explain why  the country  was still being  ranked number one in terms of insecurity from being number three  in the maritime sector?  He noted that OMSL, has not made any appreciable impact in Nigerian waters  as the country is notorious  in the whole of the Gulf of Guinea  as 80 percent of the crimes in the region  are committed in Nigerian waters.

But a hard fighting Okunbo, will not agree that OMSL operations in the secure anchorage area was illegal. He has told those that cares to listen that   the company  had sent a proposal to the NN  Authorities  which was processed and approval given to it to start operations in 2007. He  disclosed  that they started with only  three vessels but currently had 50 vessels with the Navy. He  believes that Godwin Obaseki, Edo state governor influenced the minister’s decision to cancel  the contract.

But Obaseki has come out to deny the allegation saying that he has  no hand in Okunbo and OMSL’S  problem with the government. ‘’I have no hand  in the cancellation of the company secure anchorage contrac’’, he said.t. It was therefore governor, not  very surprising,  that he was he was very happy that the minister came out to give reasons for the  termination of the contract.

 Ahead of the state governorship election , the people’s Democratic governorship Candidate in the  south -south state has accused, Okunbo, the OMSL chairman  and Adams Oshiomhole , a former governor of the state , who was removed by the Court as the National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC, of holding a secret meeting in his Benin , GRA, home, with thugs, who were  paid upfront  in order to rig the election in favour of the APC.

 Notwithstanding  the accusations and counter accusations between Obaseki, the Edo state  governor and Okunbo, over how he lost the juicy  maritime contract won with the Navy, the truth of the matter was that he will  never get it back.  Amaechi, the minister of Transport was emphatic on this. He  disclosed  that $195 million has been approved by the government  to a  company that is currently training Nigerians  that will take over the  security of the country water ways.

Okunbo: Chairman, OMSL

Appearing on AIT recently, many had expected the minister to tell Nigerians whether it is the sam  HLSI Systems and Technologies, an Israeli security firm which had  a  multi-million dollar  contract with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, to secure Nigerian maritime domain that was training the Nigerians.

Maritime analysts believe  that  there was no need keeping t Nigerians in suspense by the minister   because he had repeatedly hinted  at any given for a  that the Israeli firm was training  military personnel comprising of the Army,   Navy , Air Force  and other security agencies personnel.

Note that the government had signed a contract  with the Israeli  security  company in 2017, for the provision  of three helicopters, three air planes, three big battle ready ships, 12 vessels, and 20 amphibious cars  to aid security  of Nigerian waters.

 Most of the security equipment were said to have been supplied by the Israeli security firm according to Barshir Jamoh, Director General, NIMASA. Despite terminating the OMSL, secure anchorage contract,   Okunbo, the Chairman, insists that  his company has the capacity to provide security in Nigerian waters than the Israeli security  firm could do.

Okunbo who could not hide his feelings said, there  were  numerous challenges  in Nigeria waters which encouraged them to intervene.  He noted that Nigerian businessmen who could spend between $3 million ,$4 million or  $6 million to procure  a vessel were unable to use it in Nigeria waters as they  handed  it over to the Navy completely  without any  Insurance  from Ramsay to defend the country. ‘’We took the risk to defend the country at a time when nobody was ready to do so’’, he said

. He had told National Assembly Committee on Security  that the company stood in the gap between the Navy and the oil companies, who were mostly the vessel owners, to carry out its statutory responsibility  of protecting Nigeria water ways. The Value learnt the Nigerian Maritime security  Company was able to win the support of the companies  after several discussions which paid for their services and not  the  government.

 Recall, that  the ship owners before the contract  was signed between the NN and OMSL, were said to have  been  bringing Mercenaries into Nigeria waters to provide security for their vessels  which was costing them $225,000 daily.  ‘’We  were  able to talk  to them into business that they have the platform to serve their  desire’’, he further said.

Trouble may have started for the Company when NPA,  accused it of making too much  money from the ship owners and the oil companies and that they should make the money together.  Okunbo was said to have agreed  but  on one condition that the company should  be allowed to rent the agency vessels for its operations in order for  the  parties to be free in its operation.

 It may have been a difficult demand which NPA, Management was not ready to cave in. This may have informed  why   the agency did not hesitate in terminating the  contract when it got the ministerial order to do so.

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