In a last minute desperate bid to overturn the termination of the controversial security deal he struck with the Nigeria Navy on the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA), the Chairman of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited, Capt Hosa Okunbor, has tried to justify the contract and discredit the action of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA).
It would be recalled that the NPA has announced the termination of the controversial security contract which the OMSL had with the Navy, saying it was illegal and done to extort vessel owners which the agency said added to the costs of shipping in the country.
But in a fresh attempt to hold on to the contract which many industry stakeholders have condemned, Captain Okunbo told members of Joint committee on Navy, Marine Transport and Finance which is investigating the matter that before the Secure Anchorage Area, (SAA) contract, maritime investors were avoiding Nigeria, saying SAA brought safety to the nation’s maritime territory.
He also said the sudden stoppage of the contract by the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, without regards to OMLS’s investment, was not only embarrassing to his person, but also capable of taking Nigeria back to pre-SAA days.
Okunbor said this in Abuja during an investigative hearing by the Joint Committee on Navy, Marine Transport and Finance.
Okunbo said: “OMSL started in 2007 at the height of militancy where this country would have been producing less than 300 barrels per day. Late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu who was the first chairman of OMS and also who has been the Chief of Naval Staff was the one that came up with this idea.
“At this time, it was just an intervention and we wrote to the Navy in 2007, we bought only three vessels, we started this business with only three vessels because it was pertinent to open mistras which was short in 70,000 per day. There were bullet holes on shells EA field. Adax was attacked on daily bases and shell was going to close the whole of their eastern production.
“There were numerous challenges on our waters and we came in to intervene for the sake of National interest because then which Nigerian businessman will procure a vessel over $3 to $4m or $6m and hand it over to the Navy completely without insurance in Ramsay to defend this country. We took the risk; nobody was ready to.
“Three vessels we started with, 70 barrels per day was short in mistras. All other companies were looking at us like that. Now that clarifies the risk that we stood in the gap between the Navy to carry their statutory responsibility and the oil companies who pay for our services. If we were to pay the Navy then our prices would have been crazy. We took that responsibility, we sat with the oil companies in fact, in line with industry practice there are vessels that the oil companies naturally they rent from individuals.
“Before the OMSL Strategy, Navy men were put on top vessels, on boat, then the pirates come and when they meet them there is an element of surprise, they killed a lot of the Navy men and the Navy is not talking here I want you to talk. Your men were killed in this country until we came on board to find the solution that I am talking about. We started with the Mistras, which became a success story. Adax came, Shell ran to us, Bullet holes in Shell EA was restored, production was restored to 200,000 barrels per day that was how we were able to build capacity and develop the capacity we are talking about.
“In the advent of Amnesty and there was amnesty, all the conditions that the Navy gave to us is here in 2007 which we met. When it came to this secure anchorage area, I will tell you.
”If you remember there was a time all shipping activities were relocated to the West African, if you want to clear you goods, you go to Cotonou, Lome and Accra there was high piracy rate in Lagos and so we were invited by the Navy in line with our successes; they said we should come and help them bring our capacity to bear. We were invited and we came and they told us to do it.
”It is just like the banks buying a bullion van for the police to protect the cash that banks carry. That is the simple thing we are talking about here. We provided this platform at our cost, maintained at our cost. What happened was we wanted to stop the first year because we were losing so much money. We went to Norway at our cost, we went to London at our cost, we went to Singapore and South Africa at our cost and we met ship owners and told them they were bringing mercenaries to our waters costing you $225, 000 per day. Why do you need to bring this to our waters, we have a platform for you our government does not desire this.
“They said it was a win-win situation instead of paying $7500 for 30 days we will pay a stipend to be able to maintain and they were ready to pay that is how SA started. We were to pay money to Navy or NPA the cost would have been probably higher. We did a proper proposal which we submitted to the Navy and the Navy said as long as it is of no cost to the Government and that was how we embarked on this business.
“Having procured this equipment and have been in business for 6 years at what time did NPA call us to say we are making so much money here let us make the money together, you make money we want to rent your vessel we will agree. Ease of doing business, we will rent your vessel so that you can be free, we would agree.
“No discussion only to be sacked on the pages of newspapers after these investments. What is painful is that they denigrate my image and my integrity. I don’t do business because of money; I have served this country meritoriously with my integrity intact. I have 50 vessels with the Navy that we will go to war, they don’t need to contact us that is the extent of the commitment, national development sir. Our records are there in NNPC, our records are there in IOC. What is paining me is my integrity that NPA did not contact us for meeting, they never wrote us to say you are terminated, they never called us for anything at all. If I am stealing in your house how will it take you six years before you know I am a thief.
”You sack me and cast aspersions on my integrity, Navy it is obvious you have been aware they wanted to dismantle SAA did you call OMSL to say this is the plan of NPA? So, we stood in the gap for you and for this country. You tell me to stop, we will stop, but the onus rests on you to tell us because you gave us MOU. We should have been informed. With over fifty vessels with you, with all the investments you throw it through the window and denigrate my character that is unacceptable”.
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