By Ray Ugochukwu
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has refuted recent media reports of a huge bribery scandal involving some Israelis and officials of the Ministry of Transportation and those of the agency concerning a $420 million contract awarded to an Israeli firm.
Specifically, The Beam magazine, a Nigerian publication and other online media platforms, had reported that three officials of an Israeli shipyard involved in building platforms for the NIMASA maritime security contract, were arrested in Israel on suspicion of bribing Nigerian government officials over the project.
“The Israelis, top officials of Israeli Shipyards, a former government owned facility which is now in private hands were arrested on charges of bribing Nigerian government officials to obtain security contract worth “tens of millions of dollars”.
The officials of the shipyard known to be Israel’s largest shipbuilding facility and also one of the biggest in the Eastern Mediterranean coast were picked up following raids on the company’s Port of Haifa offices by Israeli security agencies aided by other international anti-graft organisations.
“The raid itself followed several months of investigation conducted by the Israeli police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit along with the Israel Tax Authority and international law enforcement bodies.
“The three top officials of the shipyard have since been detained under caution and are being questioned over allegations of bribing a foreign public official, false registration in corporate documents, fraud, money laundering, tax offenses and breaking a law that regulates security-related exports”, it reported.
It went further, “Following these arrests, The Beam magazine can authoritatively report that top officials of the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMoT) in Abuja and NIMASA in Apapa, Lagos have been gripped by fear over revelations turned up by the on-going Israeli probe.
“Industry watchers are keen to know how the vessel procurement deal gone awry will affect the entire maritime security arrangement midwifed by Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the NIMASA Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
The entire contract, details of which are shrouded in secrecy, is estimated to be valued at US$615 million”.
But in a statement signed by the Head, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, a Deputy Director, NIMASA stated that there was no iota of truth in the story as published by a Nigerian newspaper and other online media.
“Our attention has been drawn to a story making the rounds in the Sun newspaper and other online media alleging the involvement of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in an alleged bribery scandal concerning a sum of US$429 million maritime security contract with a certain Israeli firm. There is no truth in the publication whatsoever.
“Having read through the content of the publication, it is sad to note that some people will derive joy in playing politics with the issue of security in the Nigerian maritime domain at a time NIMASA, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transportation is working closely with security agencies in Nigeria to improve security in the Nigerian territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea”, the agency stated.
The statement however, acknowledge that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved the acquisition of some maritime security assets with a foreign form on contractor-financed basis, but noted that the reports were maliciously done to tarnish the image of the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside.
“While acknowledging that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved the acquisition of some maritime security assets on contractor financed basis in favour of an Isreali firm; the content of the write-up was laced with malicious falsehood. We view this as being merely a cheap attempt to tarnish the image of the Honorable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside”, NIMASA stated.
The agency further faulted the report for the humongous figures of $420 million and $615 million it bandied as the value of the contract for vessel purchase, stating that there was nothing of such.
It wondered how, according to the report, an investigation relating to a deal that allegedly took place between 2010 and 2013 could have anything to do with the Minister, Amaechi and NIMASA boss, Peterside, who were not in office then.
In its words, “While the report claimed bogus figures such as $429 million dollars and $615 million as value of the contract for vessel purchase, we wish to state that there was nothing in that nature related to a contract in the approval granted by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the acquisition of maritime security infrastructure. The report said the investigation relates to the acquisition of 3 number Shaldag fast patrol boats by Nigerian Navy in the years 2010 to 2013. The said report claimed three Israeli Shipyard officials were being questioned over the 2010-2013 transactions. Even when it is clear that neither the Honourable Minister, Rotimi Amaechi nor Dr. Dakuku Peterside were occupying their present office in the years mentioned in the report, the authors still chose to be mischievous”.
It went on, “The recently approved maritime security assets acquisition relates to special mission aircrafts, Special mission helicopters and 12 fast intervention vessels to be acquired for enhanced coastal and aerial surveillance and patrol of the Nigerian maritime domain will be manned by Nigerian Navy and other Nigerian military officials. The terms of the contract also include human capacity development that will see the firm train NIMASA and retrain Nigerian security personnel with specification to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) standard, specially on fighting crimes in the maritime domain of which we have peculiar challenges in the creeks and our larger coastal region. The value of this contract is known and it is $195 million.
“It is noteworthy that the European Union convened a special meeting on the Gulf of Guinea which took place in Lagos, where they noted that their decision to host the meeting outside the EU for the first time and in Nigeria was to create awareness of the fact that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is real and deserves special global attention. The International Maritime Bureau and the international shipping community have also raised similar concerns about maritime crime in Nigerian waters.
“The HLSi contract approved by Federal Executive Council is to acquire platforms to help fight piracy and it is projected to aid the reduction of piracy by over 50 per cent in the Gulf of Guinea within the first year of the contract.
“While we cannot categorically confirm or deny the fact that some Israeli officials are under investigation for contract execution involving Nigerian institution in the year 2010, please be informed that nothing of such is linked to the current leadership of the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
“It may also be recalled that efforts by the Agency to ensure a robust and safe maritime domain has received wide commendation from industry players which include the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the Shipowners Association of Nigeria. They have also pledged their continuous support to all forms of developmental initiatives geared towards ensuring a virile maritime domain in Nigeria”.
Dr. Dakuku Peterside, DG of NIMASA