The House of Representatives has reportedly issued a 72-hour ultimatum to Nigeria’s transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, and other stakeholders to produce the documents on a $195 million waterways security contract awarded to an Israeli security firm.
The Punch reports that the contract was approved for HLSI Security Systems and Technologies in October 2017 for waterways security and it involves the procurement of security equipment, training of the country’s security operatives, particularly, the Navy, to combat waterways crimes.
The report said the House decided to probe the contract after at least 10 civil society organisations petitioned Amaechi, warning the federal government not to proceeding with it since it could have security implications for the country by exposing its waterways to foreign hands.
Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, the chairman of the House committee on public petitions investigating the issue, reportedly said after a stalled session on Tuesday, January 30:
“We have been demanding these documents and we have received no responses. This is about the 8th hearing on this issue.
“If the contractual documents and agreements cannot be produced within the next 72hours, we will be forced to close this matter and make our recommendations to the House.”
Rotimi Agunsoye, another member of the committee, lamented that the House was being taken for granted.
“There is no point giving the stakeholders extra 72 hours since tax payers’ money is involved. We should just close the matter,” he said saying it was simply a waste of time.
The report said while intervening, Nkem-Abonta said:
“Let us still give them the benefit of the doubt; after 72 hours we can close the matter.
“For now, my ruling is that all relevant stakeholders should stay action in all activities pending the outcome of House resolution on the issue.
“We have wasted so much parliamentary time on this issue that we will close the matter immediately after 72 hours.”
It was learnt that Ameachi himself had confirmed the contract in Lagos during the 2017 World Maritime Day, saying: “When you see the equipment on the waterways, people will know they are safe and secured. Mr President has kindly approved that, and that is being done through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.
“In the three years, they will train our navy, our army and our police so that we can stop spending money escorting boats and vessels on our waterways.
“Currently, Maersk told me they spend between $15m and $18m annually to those escorting their vessels from one point to another on our waterways. We should be able to deflate that by next year so that people can do their businesses on our waterways without any fear of being attacked or harassed.
“The Israelis have assured us that after the training of our security operatives, such harassment and attacks on our waterways will not happen again.
“They even said we should hold them accountable if such harassment persists on our waterways after the training. That is one achievement that has happened under our leadership in the maritime sector.”
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