Lagos — President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled the lucrative but controversial Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) contract handled by Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) after agreeing with long-standing security concerns expressed about the deal by senior administration officials.
The contract, in which OMSL in partnership with the Nigerian Navy, has been providing security services to foreign ships calling at the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports in Lagos at $2,000 per day at a designated area in the water called the Secured Anchorage Area, became controversial when the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, in February last year announced its cancellation.
The ownership of the company had also become a subject of controversy between two business moguls, Captain Hosa Okunbor and Dr. Tunde Ayeni, last week with the latter alleging a grand design by the former to edge him out of the company.
While Ayeni had dragged Okunbo to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged mismanagement, stealing and diversion of funds from OMSL, Okunbo in a press statement said Ayeni was no longer a part of either OMSL or its associated companies as he resigned since in 2018 after selling all his shares.
Ayeni among other sundry allegations had also accused Okunbor of using a whopping $18 million to peddle influence at the National Assembly and the presidency to ensure that the company continues to operate the contract despite the fact that OMSL had made over $70 million in the last 18 months without remitting any money to the federal government.
In the face of the public spat by the two businessmen, the President succumbed to pressure from senior administration officials to cancel the contract.
“The president has directed the Navy to cancel the contract and return the security of the ports back to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA),” a source said.
The EFCC might also begin a probe into Ayeni’s allegation of influence peddling by Okunbor.
OMSL’s troubles started last February when Amaechi initially cancelled the contract describing it as illegal.
He told newsmen at a press conference in Lagos that the job specified in the contract was clearly for the government and not a private company.
“I took that decision (to terminate the contract) because there is nowhere in the world where private individuals are tasked with protecting or securing a nation. It shows that there is a failure in governance and as Minister of Transportation, if I allowed that to continue it means that I have also failed.”
He added: “The payment to a private company to secure anchorage area should have stopped. I have told the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to write to all those involved. The moment you continue to pay for such services, you’re going against the laws of the land.
“What we are saying is that government must protect both persons and investments. You can’t impeach a governor for not providing social amenities but you can impeach a governor who cannot provide security of lives and property. This goes to show the crucial place of security.
“Recall that we secured an approval from the Federal Executive Council to introduce a maritime security architecture, which is coming to fruition. We engaged the Homeland Security International (HLSI), who is only to provide training and equipment, while the Nigerian Navy would lead the Police, Nigerian Army and Department of State Services, among others that would run the equipment.”
The minister expressed concerns on the rise in maritime security, adding that a meeting attended by all heads of agencies was to discuss the maritime security architecture known as the Deep Blue Project.
The then Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, had during the conference, given a breakdown of the assets being installed under the Deep Blue Project.
According to him, a good number of the assets had arrived in the country, including six interceptor boats and a special mission vessel, with the second one expected to come in before the end of February last year.
Peterside disclosed that the first special mission aircraft will be in the country before the end of the first quarter of the year, while six armoured aircraft were already in the country, and the first unmanned aerial vehicle would come in before the end of February.
Dakuku stated: “We expect the first helicopter in the first quarter of this year. Almost all the communication gadgets are in the country as well as the Personal Protective Gear (PPG). The C4i centre is fully operational in Kirikiri, the NIMASA Research Centre. Those are the assets we have on the ground. However, between now and June this year, over 80 per cent of the assets would be in the country and they would be manned by the Nigerian military.”
He said that the training aspect of the project had since commenced in phases, adding that the first set of training for C4i operators and intelligence officers had been concluded, while basic infantry training for soldiers who would fight on land around the littoral areas has also been concluded and the soldiers awaiting deployment.