*Minister tackles HLSI over $195m maritime security contract
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, on Thursday said he has directed the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemi Saraki, to supervise the maritime industry while he busies himself with overseeing railway development.
Speaking during an interactive session with maritime industry stakeholders in Lagos, Amaechi also lamented delays in the execution of a $195 million security contract awarded by the Federal Government to an Isreali firm, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited to secure the nation’s maritime domain.
The $195 million maritime security contract was signed off by the Federal Executive Council in December 2017 and was for the provision of three helicopters, three airplanes, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels and 20 amphibious cars, to aid security of Nigeria’ waterways.
Ameachi said the claim by the firm that the infrastructure meant for the project are not things that are bought off the shelf is not enough justification why the equipment should not have been launched two years after the contract was awarded.
He said, “On maritime security, I have told the Israeli firm HLSI that they are too slow. By now, they should have launched. I want to know the situation of things with the aspect of security on our maritime space and I would be meeting with them on Tuesday.
“The contractor claimed that equipment meant for the project is not what you buy off the shelf but that to me is not enough reason for the delay in the takeoff of the project. HLSI said they have to fabricate the equipment and bring it down to Nigeria but we are losing manhour, human beings and business to insecurity on our waters.”
Ameachi, who acknowledged that he abandoned the maritime industry for the rail sector when he first served as transport minister from 2015 to 2019 said, the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, will be in charge of all maritime agencies while he would focus on the issue of maritime security and the Single Window project.
He said, “In my first term as minister, I completely abandoned the maritime sector to the heads of agencies. This term around, that won’t be happening again as I have instructed that the Hon. Minister of Transportation for State should personally supervise the maritime agencies, while I just oversee what is happening.
“There are two things I discussed with Mr. President that I will be focusing on in this second term as Minister, and they are maritime security and the single window project. I have assured government that by the end of 2020, we should have the single window at our maritime sector.
“Just yesterday, we got approval to complete the $5.3bn Ibadan to Kano rail project. We have also applied for funding to commence coastal rail for the Port-Harcourt to Warri segment.”
Speaking earlier, the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemi Saraki promised to work on challenges facing cadets on the issue of sea-time training.
“Don’t forget that I chaired the Senate Committee on Marine Transport for four years, so maritime is not new to me. I am just going to take my time because newer issues, like insecurity have come onboard.
“We are going to look at the issues of cadets not getting sea-time. We are also going to look at the issues of ship registry and cargo tracking note. We want to know how many jobs the maritime sector will create,” she said.
Stakeholders present at the event called the attention of the Minister on the need to hasten connection of rail line to the ports to the address the problem of gridlock on the port access roads and the dredging of port channels.