Master Mariners frown at reinstatement of controversial $195m maritime security contract

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The Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) has expressed its displeasure over the reinstatement of the controversial $195 million security contract by President Muhammadu Buhari describing it as an indictment on the security apparatus in the country.

It will be recalled that the security contract being championed by the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was awarded to an Isreali firm, HLSL Security Systems and Technologies at the cost of $195 million (about N60 billion) to procure security equipment and train Nigerian security personnel to tackle crimes on the nation’s waters.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari, had in May 2018 announced the cancellation of the contract in a memo dispatched by his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari where he directed the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to terminate the contract with immediate effect while also ordering the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) to investigate how the contractor obtained security clearance for the job without an end user certificate.

President Buhari had also ordered HLSI Security Systems and Technologies to supply items equivalent to the $50 million upfront payment it received from government.

But speaking while fielding questions from journalists in Lagos on Wednesday, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside said that the contract was initially stalled as a result of investigation on the status of the firm.

According to Peterside, the firm had since been given clean bill of health to proceed with the contract after the conclusion of the investigation.

Reacting to development, the National President of NAMM, Captain Tajudeen Alao argued that if the Nigerian Navy, Marine Police, Customs Marine commands and Immigration Marine command are well equipped and manned by qualified people, they would get result for the country more than a foreign firm could do as according to him, there were many retired soldiers, many retired Naval officers also called Royal Navy Auxiliary with the existing Navy who could police Nigerian waters.

Alao maintained that all they required to get the job done was platform, well prepared special security fund to maintain the platforms.

He said,” Let us as a country have the political will to commit money to police our waters, let us buy 250 fast intervention patrol boats not big boats and put them on these waters. We have them before in 1986 and we bought them from Holland. They can build it in Nigeria now, we have Naval Architects, they will bring the steel, they can do the wielding, they mount guns and they go to sea on patrol, we can patrol from Bakassi to here. If we do, piracy will be minimal, if we do, international community will assist us, they will see that we are serious in combating piracy. I don’t believe in this Israeli contract”.

On claims by the Nigeria Customs Service that delay in mounting weapons on the patrol boats acquired by the service was responsible for non-deployment of the boats to the waters for anti-piracy and anti-smuggling campaigns, the NAMM President said,” You don’t need to mount weapons, you can go with machine gun and you can go with night vision gadgets. The people onboard don’t need to have something mounted on the boat.

“In fact, what does it take to put guns on a boat? Nothing! It is just to train the boys, the radio is there, the communication is there, you can call for back up, then chopper will come, these people will go to sea, the ship doesn’t have to go to sea every day, they can do offshore Lagos, offshore Brass, offshore Warri, Escravous, Port-Harcourt, Calabar. You can have big 5 big ships and 4 support ships and then you can have these small craft going for sea patrol. As a serious nation, this thing is very easy to overcome, in six months, we can overcome it but we are not serious as a nation”.

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