By Ubon Akpan
Top officials of the Federal Ministry of Transport in Abuja and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) are presently jittery following the exposure of a massive bribery scandal in the controversial US$420 million maritime security contract awarded last year.
The Beam Magazine can authoritatively report that earlier this week, three officials of the 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.
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.
At the time when it was first unveiled, the waterway security contract was to be split into two parts with one part given out at US$420 million and another US$195 million going to an Israeli firm, HSU Security and Technology.
The arrests in Haifa, Israel is anchored only on US$186 million contract awarded to the Israeli Shipyards.
It is not known exactly how much the total contract value awarded to HSLI Security and Technology firm amounted to. Neither are information regarding the other US$420 million tranche available in the public domain.
In 2017, Amaechi revealed that the federal government was awarding a three-year contract for patrolling the nation’s maritime domain and training Nigerian military personnel on water security, which was targeted at saving huge security cost for operators in the maritime sector.
A few years ago, this same contract was given out to Global West Vessel Specialists (GWVS) allegedly owned by Captain Romeo Itina, a former NIMASA Director who died at the Escravos in controversial circumstances and billionaire Niger Delta militant king pin, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka. Tompolo) at US$102 million, a sum which was, even then, considered outrageous.
The earlier contract was then heavily criticized by Rt. Hon. Amaechi who was then the Rivers State Governor.
Efforts to reach NIMASA’s Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, Isichei Osamgbi, failed to elicit any response.