Deep Blue Project: Armed Forces, CBN, NPA Distance Selves from $195m Contract

Udora Orizu

Nigerian Armed Forces have distanced themselves from the $195,300 million Deep Blue Contract Agreement currently being investigated by members of the House of Representatives Committee on Navy.

In July 27, 2017, the Federal Ministry of Transportation on behalf of the federal government entered into a contract (the Deep Blue Contract) of $195,300,000 (N59,839,930,000) with a foreign private company, HLS International Limited, for the supply of certain security and surveillance equipment and systems, and also for establishing the Integrated National Coastal Surveillance and Waterways Protection Solutions with command and control of infrastructure in the country’s territorial waters.

In addition to the contract sum of $195,300,000, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) agreed to pay the sum of $19,530,000 to HLSI as Management Training Consideration and according to Appendix 4 of the agreement, both sums would be paid in monthly instalments, over a period of 36 months from July 2017 until June 2020, as further payments were also made as at July 2017 to date.

The lawmakers on December, 2021, while adopting a motion sponsored by Hon. Benjamin Kalu, had mandated the Committee on Navy to investigate the legality of the Contract agreement to know whether it was in line with extant laws and regulations.

The Committee was then also mandated to ascertain the standards of all platforms purchased to the Nigerian Navy and determine whether they are according to the actual amount of money spent by the government on the contract and any other matter relating to it.

But addressing the lawmakers at the commencement of the investigative hearing yesterday, the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo said members of the Armed Forces, right from when the project was initiated were not part of it, rather they were given the project schedule timeline on how it would be executed, to monitor and ensure that the project is delivered within the specified period.

Gambo who was represented by the Chief of Navy Engineering, Rear Admiral SD El-ladan said: “The concept right from when the project was initiated, members of the Armed Forces were not part of it. However, I think based on resistance and complains, a steering committee was created comprising of Defense Minister, Transport, DG NIMASA, Chief of Defense Staff, and the three service chiefs. Thereafter, the steering committee also created a committee called project monitoring team of the deep blue project.

“Shortly after the inauguration we were given the project schedule timeline on how the project would be executed and our task was to monitor and ensure that the project is delivered within the specified period.

“Along the line we have been getting reports from the contractor from NIMASA, until we arrived at the present stage where I said the services have issued some number of platforms and so on. The contract to the best of my knowledge is still ongoing, it has not been completed.”

Corroborating Navy’s position, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, said the Air Force were also not part of conceptualization of the project.

Amao, who was represented by Air Vice Marshal N.N. Ananaba, however said they had member in the steering committee which came into being during the execution phase of the project.

On his part, Deputy Director Special Forces OPS, Colonel KO Bukoye representing Chief of Operations Army said the Nigerian army are only operators just like the Navy.

On platforms received so far, the Navy representative, El-ladan said they have two special mission vessels, 16 armored vehicles, 17 interceptor bus, 4 UAS and two UAS as well as three special mission helicopters and two special mission aircraft.

On its part, the representative of the Nigerian Army explained that the project was supposed to provide 16 armored buffalo vehicles, but up till date they have received only six.

When the armed Forces were asked if the company, HSL was still within the time limit, they responded that based on schedule they were out of time limit.

Thereafter the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi read letters sent to the lawmakers by other stakeholders denying involvement in the contract agreement.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in its letter said they don’t have any information relating to the transaction in their custody, advising the lawmakers channel the request to respective ministries for action.

Also, the Office of the Accountant General in its letter wrote information regarding the transaction should be obtained from other relevant agencies as they are not part of it.

Similarly, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) informed the lawmakers that the authority wasn’t in anyway involved in the contract of deep blue.

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