The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has said neither its officials nor those of the Federal Ministry of Transport is involved in an alleged bribery scandal over a maritime security contract with a certain Israeli firm in the sum of $429 million contrary to some media reports.

A national daily newspaper and some online media, not Business and Transport had reported that some officials of the Ministry and the agency are currently jittery over the questioning of some members of staff of an Israeli shipyard over bribery allegation in connection with a maritime security awarded by the Federal Ministry of Transport.

In a rebuttal statement signed by the head, Corporate Communications unit of NIMASA Isichei Osamgbi, the agency said that there is no iota of truth in the said reports as they were merely designed to cause mischief.

The statement reads in part: “Our attention has been drawn to a story making the rounds in a daily newspaper and other online media alleging the involvement of the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, in an alleged bribery scandal concerning a sum of US$429 million maritime security contract with a certain Israeli firm. There is no truth in the publication whatsoever”.

“Having read through the content of the publication, it is sad to note that some people will derive joy in playing politics with the issue of security in the Nigerian maritime domain at a time NIMASA, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transportation is working closely with security agencies in Nigeria to improve security in the Nigerian territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea”.

He however acknowledged that though the Federal Executive Council FEC, recently approved the acquisition of some maritime security assets on contractor financed basis in favour of an Isreali firm; insisting that the content of the write up was laced with malicious falsehood, which the agency views as being merely a cheap attempt to tarnish the image of the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi and the Director General of NIMASA Dr. Dakuku Peterside.

“While the report claimed bogus figures such as $429 million and $615 million respectively as value of the contract for vessel purchase, we wish to state that there was nothing in that nature related to a contract in the approval granted by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the acquisition of maritime security infrastructure. The report said the investigation relates to the acquisition of three Shaldag fast patrol boats by Nigerian Navy between 2010 and 2013. The said report also claimed that three Israeli shipyard officials were being questioned over the 2010-2013 transactions, even when it is clear that neither the Minister nor the DG of NIMASA Peterside occupied their present office in the years mentioned in the report, the authors still chose to be mischievous”.

He also disclosed that the value of the recently approved maritime security assets acquisition contract is $195million, which is known, having been made public. The contract, according to him relates to special mission aircrafts, special mission helicopters and 12 units of fast intervention vessels to be acquired for enhanced coastal and aerial surveillance and patrol of Nigeria’s maritime domain, which will be manned by Nigerian Navy and other Nigerian military officials.

“The HLSi contract approved by Federal Executive Council is to acquire platforms to help fight piracy and it is projected to aid the reduction of piracy by over 50 per cent in the Gulf of Guinea within the first year of the contract. While we cannot categorically confirm or deny the fact that some Israeli officials are under investigation for contract execution involving Nigerian institution in  the year 2010, please be informed that nothing of such is linked to the current leadership of the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA”, he also said.

It was however gathered that the terms of the contract also include human capacity development, which will see the Israeli firm train NIMASA officials and retrain Nigerian security personnel with specification to the International Maritime Organisation IMO standards, especially on fighting crimes in the maritime domain of which the country has peculiar challenges in the creeks and other larger coastal region.

The statement also noted that the European Union convened a special meeting on the Gulf of Guinea which took place in Lagos, where it said that its decision to host the meeting outside the EU for the first time and in Nigeria was to create awareness of the fact that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was real and deserves special global attention. It is also on record that the International Maritime Bureau and the international shipping community have also raised similar concerns about maritime crime on Nigeria’s waters, which gave rise to urgent need to tackle the challenge.

Recall that NIMASA’s efforts at ensuring a robust, safe and secure maritime domain have received wide commendation from industry stakeholders which include but not limited to the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding and the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, who have also pledged their continuous support to all forms of developmental initiatives geared towards ensuring a virile maritime industry in the country.