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Can Amaechi’s HSLi contract stand with Piracy & Other Maritime Offences Bill?

At the height of the controversy surrounding the executive fiat with which the Federal Government sealed a $195m maritime security contract with an Israeli firm, Messrs HLSI Security Systems & Technologies, the presidency sent an executive bill, Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Bill, 2018 to strengthen security on Nigerian waters.
The major confusion on the contract came from the fact that it was without recourse to the National Assembly.
Business Hilights recalls that in the letter written by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate explaining why he declined assent to 14 bills, he also introduced Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Bill, 2018 to the upper chamber; requesting that the bill be considered and passed into law.
According to him, the bill is intended to curtail illegal activities of pirates at sea as well as to reduce the incidences of theft in domestic and international waters.
He also said the bill, (if passed) will domesticate the relevant provisions of international treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory, such as Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (UNCLOS II) relating to piracy; as well as the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA) against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988 and its protocols.
Though the bill is still under consideration at the National Assembly, maritime security analysts are or the view that lawmakers may during clause by clause passage expunge any provision encouraging the HSLi security contract or any other form of deals that may expose Nigeria’s territorial waters to foreign surveillance considering the interest of national security and surveillance integrity.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had disclosed during the unveiling of the 2019/2020 Maritime Industry Forecast by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in Lagos that the maritime security contract entered into by the Federal Government and an Israeli firm, HLSI Security Systems & Technologies had already commenced and was ongoing.
The $195m 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’s waterways.
In January 2018, the House of Representatives criticised the management of NIMASA for awarding the contract to HLSI, saying it was a breach of Nigeria’s internal security and defiance of the local content law.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in May 2018, cancelled the contract via a memo directing the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to terminate the contract and for the National Security Adviser and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency to investigate how the contractor obtained security clearance without an end-user certificate.
To recover the first payment made to it, Buhari ordered HLSI to supply equipment to the tune of the $50m upfront payment it received from Nigeria.
But even before it sent the new Executive Bill on maritime security, it was on record that the same Federal Government, had reinstated the contract in August, according to NIMASA.
Explaining more through the Deputy Director, Cabotage and Shipping Development in the ministry, Mrs Gloria Adie-Ayabie, Amaechi disclosed that President Buhari had put in place many reforms in the maritime industry to promote the safety and security of Nigeria’s waterways, for the benefit of Nigerian citizens and investors.
He said although the sector was faced with various forms of criminality ranging from armed robbery, oil theft, piracy and other forms of unreported crimes, government was making efforts to tame these criminal activities, through the presentation of an executive bill at the National Assembly for an Act to provide for the suppression of piracy and other unlawful acts at sea.
Amaechi stated that “In addition, the Federal Government has signed an agreement with Messrs HLSI to establish and integrate national security and water protection infrastructure in Nigeria, to ensure security in the national maritime domain, the execution of which is ongoing.”
Statistics show that pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have been on the increase in recent times. Last year, Nigeria recorded 30 pirate attacks on ships, the highest number of attacks recorded in the nations around the GoG, according to data from the International Maritime Bureau.