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Armed Forces, CBN, NPA, others deny connection with $195.3m ‘Deep Blue’ contract

...As Contractor, HLS not registered in Nigeria - CAC

The Nigerian Armed Forces, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Office of Accountant General of the Federation on Wednesday dissociated themselves from the $195.3 million Federal Government’s Deep Blue Contract.

The Services and Agencies gave this indication at the House of Representatives Committee on Navy investigative hearing on the legality of the Deep Blue contract agreement and Specifications of the Project.

The House of Representatives had in December last year mandated the Committee on Navy to investigate the contract which was awarded by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in 2017 to a foreign private company, HLS International Limited, for the supply of certain security and surveillance equipment and systems.

Appearing before the Committee on Navy, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Airforce said they were not part of the conceptualisation of the contract though they are the intended operators.

Awwal Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff represented by S.D El-Ladan, Chief of Navy Engineering said right from when the project was initiated, members of the armed forces were not part of it, however a steering Committee was constituted comprising the Defence Minister and Service Chiefs.

El-Ladan said the Navy has so far received two special mission vessels, three special mission helicopters and eight interceptor pots from the project. He said those platforms were commissioned by President Muhamadu Buhari last year and handed over to the Navy for operations.

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He said: “The steering committee created a committee called the project monitoring team of the deep blue project. Shortly after the inauguration we were given the project schedule timeline on how the project will 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 so so number of platforms and so on. The contract to the best of my knowledge is still ongoing, it has not been completed.”

Similarly, representative of the Nigerian Army, K.O Okoye concurred that; “the Nigerian Army are only operators just like the Navy, adding that;”for the Army
the project was supposed to provide 16 armoured buffalo vehicles, up till date we have received only six, remaining ten are still at the port in Onne we only train with six.”

Also, the Chief of Air Staff representative, N.N Anamaba agreed that the Nigerian Air Force was not part of conceptualization of the project but it has “a member in the steering committee which came into being during the execution phase of the project.”

On its part, CBN in a letter to the Committee read by the Chairman, Yusuf Gagdi said it has no information relating to the transaction (contract) in its custody and advised lawmakers to channel their “request to respective ministries for action.”

The Nigerian Ports Authority in its letter simply said: “I am constrained to inform you that the authority isn’t in any way involved in the contract of deep blue.

The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation wrote that it is not part of the Contractor as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) funds the project with the revenue it generates.

“In the view of the above you may wish to obtain the requested information from relevant agencies. It’s the money generated by NIMASA that this project is being funded without the Accountant General”, the Office said.

The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in its letter stated the contractor
HSL was not registered with the Commission, saying: “there is no information on the exact name, HSL international limited readily available as a registered entity on the corporate commission record. You may wish to forward the document about them to us so we can investigate further.”

Ruling, the Committee Chairman who requested information on the specifications of the projects from the Armed Forces said: “The Ministry of Transportation is going to appear on Tuesday next week. We are also inviting the representatives of armed forces to be around that Tuesday”.

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