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.
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.
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.