The $195 million controversial coastal waterways contract awarded to an Israeli firm, HLSI has been queried by a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Empowerment for Unemployed Youth Initiative.
At a press briefing in Abuja, the CSO want the National Assembly to revisit and address a two-year contract awarded to the firm to secure and have full control of Nigeria’s coastal waterways.
The group claimed the million-dollar contract has serious implications and as well violates the status of a sovereign nation like Nigeria.
“All over the world, no nation leaves affairs of national security completely under the control of a private firm.
“The contract also undermines the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and also, the provision of sub-section A of the Armed Forces Act which allows for the enforcement, assistance and coordination of all customs, laws, including anti-bunkering fishery and immigration laws of Nigeria at sea.
It would be recalled that the Federal House of Representatives in 2018 queried the Nigerian Maritime Administrative Safety Agency (NIMASA) for awarding the contract to HLSI.
In May of the same year, President Muhammadu Buhari had also directed the termination of the contract through a memo to Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The Coalition group however alleged that the contract which had been reversed by the Federal Executive Council and the President himself had been smuggled back by some individuals through the back door and the same contract has gotten budgetary approvals and payments.
The group expressed concerns about the implication of the contract details and urged that the lawmakers revisit the probe into the matter.
The controversial contract
The $195M contract is a two-year Maritime security contract awarded to an Israeli company, HSLI systems and company ltd, on 30th October 2017 and implies the HSLI Company will be in full control of Nigeria’s waterways.
The contract was for the provision of 12 vessels, 20 amphibious cars, 3 big battle-ready ships, 3 aeroplanes and 3 helicopters to aid the security operations in the waterways. It was also for the training of Nigeria’s security agencies to regain full control of the waterways from pirates and people involved in illegal bunkering.
The contract was approved by the Federal Executive Council in October 2017. It was reported that an upfront payment of $50M had been made under the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
At the International World Maritime Day 2017, Rotimi Amaechi had confirmed the existence of the contract but did not reveal the identity of the HLSI Company, the exact equipment to be supplied and how the Nigerian Navy in charge of Nigeria’s waterways would be involved.
There was also an unconfirmed allegation that the $50M advance payment made to HLSI had been diverted to fund President Muhammadu Buhari’s election campaign, an allegation the minister of Transport vehemently denied.
The HLSI Group
HLSI is an Israeli-based Mitrelli Group and part of Mitrelli security branch. It was initially known as LR Group, established in 1985 by three Israeli Air Force Pilots who became wealthy from deals in Angola and other parts of the world. The Company was first contracted in Rivers State in March 2012 by then Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
Following several petitions from Civil Society Groups regarding the contract, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions in 2017 organized public hearings on the matter and the Navy, Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), DakukuPeterside the DG of NIMASA, Minister of T.ransportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Federal Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Defence, other Stakeholders and Committees were all present for public hearings.
The conclusion at the hearings was that the contract violated appropriation laws and also HLSI was not a registered company in Israel.
In May 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari terminated the $195M HLSI contract through a memo sent from Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
The President also ordered that the National Security Adviser and Nigerian Intelligence Agency investigate how the contractors obtained security clearance for the job without an end-user certificate.