Last week, hoodlums gained access to the premises of the National Assembly and attacked the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, who was invited for a hearing on the operation of OMS Limited by lawmakers. The attack signposts an attempt to perpetuate illegality, providing the government to take urgent steps to protect its officials.
While speaking in Daura, Katsina State, when a delegation of Katsina State Elders Forum visited him at his country home, President Muhammadu Buhari said the country’s land borders, were closed because of deep-rooted dishonesty in Nigeria.
He said farmers were among the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s decision to close the borders, which had led to a remarkable drop in the smuggling of goods, especially rice. Acknowledging the efforts of farmers, Buhari said, “Farmers must be protected. Dishonesty is deep-rooted in the country. Otherwise, the border closure would not have been warranted.”
The president’s statement to some extent has been the story of Nigeria, as corruption seems to be a culture or a way of life. Those who dare to stand out and do the right are seen as the enemy rather than celebrated. In the last 10 years, the Nigerian government has lost over $100 billion to corruption and stealing of public funds in one form or the other and that is been modest. In the midst of the anomaly in the country, a few are still standing strong despite the threat to life while a few have joined the rest.
According to some people, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) used to be a meeting point for sharing dollars. Contractors, they said, would rather pay NPA officials than execute contracts for the benefit of the country. This explains the recent alleged attack on the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, at the investigative hearing on the activities of OMSL and other security agencies at the Safe Anchorage area in Lagos at the Senate building on December 3.
The NPA had recently informed the Nigerian Navy of its decision to dismantle the Secured Anchorage Area (SAA) where fees of over N50 billion are being charged by a private company, OMS Limited, to secure ships calling at the Nigerian ports.
Analysts and stakeholders applauded the NPA’s decision believing that the dismantling the safe Anchorage Area is in the national interest. Meanwhile, OMSL has not hidden its desire to maintain the status quo at all costs. The company has taken steps to retain the lucrative business by employing all kinds of measures including accusing Bala-Usman of planning to award the contract to her brother. The NPA has, however, said there is no going back.
The NPA boss while reacting to claims that the port authority intends to give the business to another company, stated categorically, “NPA believes that there is no need for privately managed SAA, Nigerian Government through NN, NIMASA and NPA should secure the waterways at zero cost to the shipowner. We need to consciously reduce the cost of doing business in Nigeria and such charges are what translates into an additional cost of calling in our ports. More so with the ongoing deployment of the maritime security project being implemented by NIMASA costing the government billions of USD why do we need anything called SAA run by a private company with a cost to vessel owners? The NIMASA project is to secure all our waterways, which includes any locations Vessels choose to anchor.”
Appalled by the news of the SAA, the Senate had questioned the rationale of another contract by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to an Israeli security firm, HSLI, to police the nation’s waterways at a total cost of $198million.
The senators queried Rear Admiral Tariworio Dick, who represented the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, at a joint investigative hearing on the activities of the Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL), which hitherto provided security services at the Secured Anchorage Area (SAA) at the Lagos Pilotage District.
The OMSL had been providing security at the SAA to international oil companies’ vessels at the cost of $2,500 per vessel each before the NPA dismantled the SAA, citing national security and port cost.
A member of the committee doing the investigation, Senator Tolu Odebiyi, said Nigerians are aware that a foreign firm was brought into the country to carry out security services for some Nigerian government agencies, notwithstanding the position of the Navy that only indigenous companies are allowed to render security services in the seas around Nigeria.
In his response to the question, Dick said, “I am aware that there is a contract like that ongoing and that facilities are being provided. I am aware.”