EXCLUSIVE: Buhari wades into NPA, OMSL secure anchorage dispute

Buhari seeks Senate approval for 42 ambassadorial nominees

Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Justice/Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to advise him on the controversial cancellation of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) contract being operated by the Nigerian Navy and a private company, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) in Lagos. 

The SAA arrangement was nullified by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in October 2019 on the grounds that the security of the country’s waterways was the statutory responsibility of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Marine Police, and Nigerian Navy, which must all ensure a safe and secure Nigeria territorial waters. NPA further stated that the operations of SAA added up to high cost incurred by vessels coming to Nigeria through the charge of $1,500 per vessel per day. 

OMSL reportedly rakes in more than USD130million (about N50billion) annually from the contract. 

NPA consequently directed all vessels calling at the Lagos ports to stop using the so-called safe anchorage area. 

The directive by the President is sequel to a petition written by OMSL through the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, seeking presidential intervention to stop the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) from interfering in the operation of the SAA. 

The OMSL petition obtained exclusively by SHIPS & PORTS, titled “RE: REQUEST FOR PRESIDENTIAL INTERVENTION TO STOP NIGERIAN PORTS AUTHORITY’S INTERFERENCE ON A SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION WITH THE NIGERIAN NAVY FOR THE PROVISION OF MARITIME SECURITY OFFSHORE LAGOS” was dated 24th June 2020 and signed by the company’s chairman, Capt. Idahosa Okunbo. 

Consequent upon the petition, Prof. Gambari, on 6th July 2020, sent a memo with reference number SH/COS/23/A/180 to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Justice/Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to “opine on the legal and policy implications of the contention by Ocean Marine Solutions Limited that as the Secure Anchorage Area (‘SAA’) is located 10 nautical miles offshore Lagos Ports, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited’s arrangement with the Nigerian Navy to provide escort security services to sea-going vessels in the SAA, is not within the Jurisdiction or the Nigerian Ports Authority”. 

Amaechi, on his part, subsequently wrote to the Director-General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, requesting him to review the OMSL petition “and revert with your response/inputs on or before 21st July 2020 in order to guide the Honourable Minister’s response to the President”. 

Amaechi’s letter to Jamoh was dated 15th July 2020 and signed on his behalf by the Director, Maritime Safety and Security of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Paul Adalikwu. 

In its June 24 petition to President Buhari through the Chief of Staff to the President, OMSL had accused NPA of interfering with the operations of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA). 

It reads in part: “Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) supports the Nigerian Navy to provide to shipping offshore Lagos at no cost to government. However, seemingly misunderstanding the concept, the current management of NPA has continued to oppose the operation, through publications purportedly dismantling the service as illegal, fraudulent and threat to national security.

“Subsequent to the publications and media hype on the weighty allegations, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria embarked on an extensive investigation of the activities of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL), to determine the legality or otherwise of the SAA operations. At the end of the hearing, the Senate unanimously resolved that there was no illegality in the operations of OMSL and the crucial services provided were at no expense to the Government. The Senate further concluded among other recommendations that the Initiative was rather a patriotic and nationalistic collaboration for which OMSL should be commended and encouraged. 

“Regrettably, despite the aforementioned Senate resolution absolving OMSL of any illegality in its activities in the SAA, the NPA has continued its campaign of calumny and denigration of OMSL and the services provided at the SAA. Very recently, NPA circulated letters to the shipping community threatening to penalize any shipping company utilizing the services provided by OMSL in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy at the SAA. [Copies attached]. Such actions potentially create confusion in the industry especially for the foreign shipping lines that are happily enjoying the services provided at the SAA.” 

OMSL pleaded with President Buhari to “kindly intervene in this matter to preserve the sanctity of the working security arrangement already in place in the SAA”. 

The company also said that the President should compel NPA to hire its eight patrol boats at the sum of USD10,500 per day, amounting to USD84,000 (N32 million) daily “to avoid creating a security gap that would occur in the immediate withdrawal of OMSL boats following NPA’s pronouncements”. 

 

 

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