The House of Representatives’ Committee on Navy, on Tuesday, grilled the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; and the leadership of the Bureau of Public Procurement led by the Director-General, Mamman Ahmadu over the $214million Deep Blue Contract inaugurated last year by President Muhammadu Buhari.
On June 11, 2021, Buhari inaugurated the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure in Nigeria, also known as the Deep Blue Project, at the ENL Terminal, Apapa Port, Lagos State.
According to Punch, the contract is worth $214,830,000, including $195,300,000 for the actual contract and an additional $19,530,000 NIMASA agreed to pay to HSL for ‘Management Training Consideration.’
The contract was awarded to HSL International Limited after which the company was issued a Certificate of No Objection — a situation that raised eyebrows.
During an investigative hearing by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Navy, on Tuesday, the BPP informed the Committee that it did not possess the documents presented by the HSL.
The BPP said the documents on HSL International Limited, were returned to the Ministry of Transportation after the certificate was issued to the company.
The Corporate Affairs Commission had at the last investigative hearing by the committee on March 9, 2022, told the lawmakers that HSL International Limited was not registered with it.
The Chairman of the committee, Yusuf Gagdi, said lawmakers were shocked when the CAC said it did not have HSL on its records, asking the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; and the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Bashir Jamoh, to come forward and provide details of the company.
However, on Tuesday, the committee did not raise the issue during Amaechi’s presentation but grilled the BPP officials on the firm.
The lawmakers stated that for the BPP to issue Certificate of No Objection, the conditions set by Section 16 of the Public Procurement Act must have been met, especially by a contractor.
Gagdi stated that part of the terms of reference of the committee was to look at the contract agreement and the legitimacy of the contract.
Meanwhile, the BPP’s Director, Agriculture and Water Resources, Isaiah Yesufu, who the DG said was the officer that reviewed the procurement processes leading to the issuance of the certificate on the project, recalled that the request got to the bureau through the Ministry of Transport in 2017.
According to him, the request was for HSL International Limited to carry out the provision of some security equipment for the coastlines. He also disclosed that the request was for direct procurement due to the security nature of the project, stressing that the law permits single sourcing for such projects.
Gagdi also stated that part of the mandate is the legitimacy of the contract. “We expect the BPP to tell us reasons why Certificate of No Objection was issued in respect of this contract,” he said.
Members of the committee also queried why the BPP did not keep copies of the document.
The Chairman of the committee, in his ruling, asked the BPP to produce the documents next week.
Earlier in his presentation, Amaechi stated that the project followed due process while all conditions prescribed by the various laws were met. He said after the publication of ‘Request for Proposal’, the BPP was approached which issued an approval for Certificate of No Objection.
The minister also said the project was taken to the Federal Executive Council and it was approved. “Subsequently, we have been going through the cabinet approval in implementing this. And we have implemented it by saying that everything that was to be bought was bought, cleared, installed and handed over to about three or four agencies,” he added.
He further said, “What I don’t know is about payment because as minister, my responsibility is just to approve up to the cabinet level. After that, NIMASA is responsible for implementing it. As the supervising minister, I have the special interest in making sure that the contracts are delivered, because my interest is to ensure that there is security on the waters.
“So far, there is security as it pertains to merchant ships. At least, we have reduced the number of attacks that we used to have on the waters. That is what the situation is now.”