Abuja — The House of Representatives has launched investigation into 'Deep Blue' contract awarded by the Ministry of Transportation through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to an Israeli Firm, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited, at the cost of $195,300,000.
This followed the adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Benjamin Kalu titled: 'Urgent Need to Investigate the 'Deep Blue' Contract of $195,300,000 between the Federal Ministry of Transportation and HSL International Limited and the Alleged Use of the Cabotage Funds to Service the Contract.'
Kalu recalled that on July 27, 2017, the Ministry of Transportation, through Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), on behalf of the federal government, entered into the 'Deep Blue' contract of $195,300,000, equivalent of N59,839,930,000, with HLSI Limited for the supply of certain security and surveillance equipment and systems for the establishment of the integrated national coastal surveillance and waterways protection solutions, with command and control of infrastructure in the country's territorial waters.
He said: "The House is also aware that in addition to the foregoing contract sum of $195,300,000, NIMASA agreed to pay the sum of $19,530,000 to HLSI as management training consideration, further agreeing, according to Appendix 4 of the agreement, that both sums would be paid at installment monthly over a period of 36 months, from July 2017 to June 2020."
Kalu said the National Assembly had neither authorised nor appropriated any money for the 'Deep Blue' contract or any monthly expenditure.
According to him, "The House is alarmed that the payments of N59,839,930,000 made to the foreign company to secure and survey our coastal waterways are astronomically higher than the annual capital expenditure budget of the Nigerian Navy, which was N27.2billion in 2019.
The lawmaker noted that the House is disturbed that despite the unreasonably high amounts of money paid monthly to the foreign entity known as HLSI, the country coastal waters are unsafe, and there are still persistent illegal economic activities being perpetrated by foreign pirates in the country's economic zone, including the illegal diversion of the country's crude oil.
He stressed that the House is disturbed by allegations that HLSI has purchased more security and surveillance equipment than was originally envisaged in the contract, thereby covertly using funds meant for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians to finance the security acquisitions of a foreign entity.
Kalu noted that "the House is deeply concerned that the continued execution of the 'Deep Blue' contract outside the appropriation of the National Assembly amounts to fiscal indiscipline, engenders corruption and provides the platform for arbitrariness by NIMASA."
The House, therefore, urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to halt all payments in relation to the 'Deep Blue' contract.
However, the green chamber resolved to set up and mandate an ad hoc committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the activities of the ministry and NIMASA in relation to the contract and the alleged "diversion of the Cabotage Funds and other funds to covertly execute the Deep Blue contract."
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society organisations has called on the National Assembly to revisit its earlier probe on the $195 million coastal waterways security contract awarded to an Israeli private firm, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited, by the NIMASA.
The National Coordinator of Empowerment for Unemployed Youth Initiative, Mr. Solomon Adodo, who spoke on behalf of the coalition at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, said the cry of the coalition was premised on the fact that the said contract had grave national security implication owing to the ceding of the control of the country's water ways to a foreign firm.
He described it as a gross violation of the status of the country as a sovereign nation, adding that revisiting probe of the contract was necessary given that the action had grave implications national security.