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Reps grill Amaechi, BPE officials over $214m Deep Blue contract

HE Bureau of Public Procurement has told the House of Representatives’ Committee on Navy that it does not possess the documents presented by the HSL International Limited, which the Federal Government awarded the ‘Deep Blue Project’ contract, before the firm was issued a Certificate of No Objection.

According to the BPP, the documents on HSL International Limited were returned to the Ministry of Transportation after the certificate was issued to the company.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on June 11, 2021, inaugurated the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure in Nigeria, also known as the Deep Blue Project, at the ENL Terminal, Apapa Port, Lagos State.

The contract is said to be worth $214,830,000, including $195,300,000 for the actual contract and an additional $19,530,000 NIMASA agreed to pay to HSL for ‘Management Training Consideration.’

The committee, on Tuesday, grilled the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi; and the leadership of the BPP led by the Director-General, Mamman Ahmadu.

The Corporate Affairs Commission had at the last investigative hearing by the committee on March 9, 2022, told the lawmakers that HSL International Limited was not registered with it.

The Chairman of the committee, Yusuf Gagdi, had stated that the lawmakers were shocked when the CAC said it did not have HSL on its records, asking the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; and the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Bashir Jamoh, to come forward and provide details of the company.

However, the committee did not raise the issue during Amaechi’s presentation on Tuesday but grilled the BPP officials on the firm instead.

The lawmakers stated that for the BPP to issue Certificate of No Objection, the conditions set by Section 16 of the Public Procurement Act must have been met, especially by a contractor.

Gagdi stated that part of the terms of reference of the committee was to look at the contract agreement and the legitimacy of the contract.

The Director,  Agriculture and Water Resources, BPP, Isaiah Yesufu, who the DG said was the officer that reviewed the procurement processes leading to the issuance of the certificate on the project, recalled that the request got to the bureau through the Ministry of Transport in 2017.

Yesufu said the request was for HSL International Limited to carry out the provision of some security equipment for the coastlines. He also disclosed that the request was for direct procurement due to the security nature of the project, stressing that the law permits single sourcing for such projects.

He said, “Under the law, there is a section that permits the use of direct procurement under the security related issues and this procurement had a letter from the Office of the National Security Adviser and Office of the President indicating the security nature of the project. Under that, we approved the use of direct procurement.

“We went through the processes; we looked at the request that the ministry made, we looked at documents that were submitted. We were satisfied with them and we issued the Certificate of No Objection. We submitted the review report which contains the details of our findings.”

Gagdi also stated that part of the mandate is the legitimacy of the contract. “We expect the BPP to tell us reasons why Certificate of No Objection was issued in respect of this contract,” he said.

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