As NIMASA battles with criticisms over what appears a re-enactment of the controversial Global West contract, the choice of financial consultant and terms of the contract have attracted negative reactions and a legislative scrutiny. Izuchukwu Ozoemena reports.
It was supposed to be a straight forward deal. The Nigerian Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is owed a lot of money, mainly in hard currency, by some shipping companies and agencies. It is "just" $420.55million, according to Dr. Dakuku Peterside, director general of agency, much lower than the $5 billion alleged by some people.
To recover the debt, NIMASA has contracted the services of a private company. Now, it is no longer so simple: The company will earn 13 percent of every $19,753,012.36 and N239,607,155.52 recovered monthly, while a maximum of 15 percent success rate is payable on any new revenue head discovered by the consultants within the contract period. Apart from debt reconciliation and recovery, the consultant will be providing" platforms for waterways monitoring and enforcement. "Beginning from October1, 2016 upto September 30, 2018, the new company is billed to earn from NIMASA N48 million a month. This is for engagement fees and other allowances for two years.
Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Reps
Sounds familiar? Of course. In 2011, NIMASA under Patrick Akpobolokemi, awarded a 10 year maritime security contract to Global West Vessel Specialists Limited, GWVSNL a company owned by former militant, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, under a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement. As part of the deal, GWVSNL was expected to provide platforms to be used by the Nigerian navy and other security operatives to patrol the waterways. GWVSN supplied 20 patrol vessels for the use of Nigeria’s military authorities in securing the country’s coast line.
Then this: The successful company turns out to be SNECOU Financial Services Company Limited which has Dr. Davies Akanya. But what sent tongues wagging, is that the same Akanya is the chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in River state, the party under which Dr. Dakuku Peterside contested gubernatorial seat of the same state in 2015 general election. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, the supervising ministry to NIMASA, is also a prominent national chieftain of the party.
Again, the deal has put NIMASA under the klieg light. The House of Representatives Committee on Marine Safety has waded in. Armed with petitions alleging breach of due process and fraud in the award of the contract, the Committee expressed concern that SNECOU Financial Services Company Limited would take a whopping 13 per cent of the recovered amount. The law makers said the amount is huge as it would translate to a $65 million profit for the firm.
Alhaji Umar Bago, the committee chairman, considers the contract a waste of public funds. In agreement with concerns raised by insiders in NIMASA, the chairman queried the wisdom in the agency engaging another firm to perform its functions. “Why do we have staff in NIMASA? What is their work?” Bago queried.
Dan Asuquo, another committee member and chairman, House Committee on Power, directed Peterside to produce the audited account of the company. This, according to him, would enable the committee determine the firm’s pedigree in business transactions. The audited account will also provide useful information on the real owners of the company.
The stance of the law makers seems to be reinforced by some voice of discontent within NIMASA who insisted that it is not necessary to outsource the revenue recovery effort as the enforcement unit of the agency is there to do the job. “What they (the enforcement staff) require is empowerment. NIMASA can start by sanctioning any agency or client that refuses to clear accumulated debt until otherwise. Business dealings with such agencies can be suspended pending when hanging debts are cleared,” a source which does not want to be named told Business and Maritime West Africa. The source added that since the debtor-agencies must always come to NIMASA for one thing or the other, strict sanctions will surely make them to comply.
Defending his action, however, the director general told the committee that from 2004 to 2016, the debt owed the agency by various organizations amounted to $420.55 million and not the figures being put forward by petitioners. “Who ever said that NIMASA was owed $5 billion? The entire volume of shipping trade in Nigeria in the last four years is nothing close to $10 billion”. He insisted that the agency complied with every provision of the Public Procurement Act.
“We have awarded a debt recovery contract which is totally different from what Global West was doing for NIMASA. The contract was not awarded to the chairman of the APC in Rivers State. It was awarded to SNECOU Nigeria Limited and we advertised the contract in several newspapers. So, I don’t see what is wrong with awarding a contract to get our money from debtors,” Peterside stated.
NIMASA DG, Dakuku Peterside
Corroborating the director general’s submission, the public affairs unit of NIMASA said SNECOU’s emergence was approved by the Parastatals Tenders Board (PTB) of the agency at its 55th session which held recently. The contract which also sees the company serving as a revenue consultant, is for a period of two years in the first instance, with an option for renewal.
According to Lami Tumaka, NIMASA’s image maker, “given the urgent need to recover the agency’s debts, which is in billions of naira, the agency sought and obtained approval for a Certificate of No Objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement, in line with the Public Procurement Act (PPA).”
Tompolo, GWVSNL Boss
She said the contractual agreement already endorsed by both parties stipulates that it is based on a success rate of 13 per cent using a benchmark of $19, 753, 012.36 and N239, 607, 155.52 monthly revenue, while a maximum of 15 per cent success rate is payable on any new revenue head discovered by the consultants within the contract period.
Dr. Ikanya Davies, APC Chairman, Rivers State
SNECOU Financial Services Company Limited will be paid 13 per cent of only the revenue that is above the threshold of the approved benchmark in the course of the contracting period. Similarly, Messrs SNECOU will also be entitled to a maximum of 15 per cent of new revenue streams discovered during the period. These were the details of the controversial contract as explained by the agency
.Apparently not impressed with the explanations, the lawmakers are proceeding with a full investigative hearing on the contract. They told Peterside to prepare answers to outstanding questions.
The development marks a second time in the current administration NIMASA has come under intense scrutiny over contracts associated with the outsourcing of some of its responsibilities.
Patrick Akpobolokemi, fmr. MIMASA DG
Under Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, Peterside's predecessor as director general of the agency, a 10-year security contract was awarded to Global West Vessel Specialists Limited, GWVSNL. The controversial contract jettisoned the direct collaboration between the agency and the Nigerian Navy in the provision of platforms and materials for securing the country's waters.
Hajiya Lami Tumaka
Since the appearance of Peterside before the law makers to defend the contentious contract in October, nothing has been heard from the legislators. The stakeholders are hoping that the angry outburst of the legislators are not a simple antics and coercive instrument to be cut into the deal. Time will tell.