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SAA: NPA Should Thread With Caution…We Have Nothing To Hide – OMS Boss, Capt Hosa Okunbo

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SAA: NPA Should Thread With Caution…We Have Nothing To Hide – OMS Boss, Capt Hosa Okunbo

SAA: NPA Should Thread With Caution…We Have Nothing To Hide – OMS Boss, Capt Hosa Okunbo
November 15
17:15 2019

My attention has been drawn to various publications in the media on the issuance of Marine Notice (October 2019) by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) to maritime stakeholders on the discontinuance of OMS operations in the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA).

Before then, there have been other publications alleging a fraudulent “N263b” payment to OMS.
While the action(s)of the NPA are simply unbelievable given our impeccable record of patriotic services to our fatherland, reports in the media(obviously sponsored) of humongous payments are spurious, evil and fallacious. They do not in anyway reflect the true position of the SAA transactions, and our contractual engagement with the Nigerian Navy.
The publications were certainly intended to malign, demean and impugn my hard-earned reputation, as well as that of OMS.

For the purpose of setting the records straight, so that unwary members of the public are not fed with jaundiced and misleading views, I have found it expedient to present the facts as they are:

1. We are not, have NEVER been fraudulent in our operations since we entered into contractual relationship with the Nigerian Navy on maritime security. The so-called N263b payment exists only in the warped imagination of those that cooked up the figures.

2. Contrary to the erroneous impressions created by NPA on SAA charges, we have actually saved our country more money that would have been lost to vandals and bandits by bearing risks on behalf of anchoring ships transiting or making port calls to Lagos.

3. OMS as an indigenous company has a broad objective of promoting local content in the maritime industry, and has been collaborating with the Nigerian Navy in carrying out its statutory duty to promote, co-ordinate, enforce maritime laws and safety regulations in Nigerian waters. This collaboration for the past 12 years has significantly improved security in Nigeria’s maritime domain.

4. At the height of piracy, armed robbery at sea and the proliferation of illegal arms importation into Nigeria through the Gulf of Guinea, the Nigerian Navy invited OMS to the meetings of a Steering Committee composed of NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and other maritime stakeholders, for a discussion on how to improve security within the Lagos Harbour Approaches.

5. The main decision at the end of the Steering Committee meetings was the creation of fresh demarcations for better governance of the sea area. These fresh demarcations are Traffic Separation Scheme, (TSS), Ship-To-Ship transfer operations (STS) Area and the SAA which were subsequently published as Marine Notice by both the NPA and NIMASA.

6. On the basis of these publications, OMS was then encouraged to undertake significant investment to procure platforms to be utilised within the SAA and went further to develop and submit a business plan of 20 years for return on investment to the Nigerian Navy for OMS operations in the SAA. The business plan was approved by the Nigerian Navy and was described (by the Navy) as a “laudable initiative and highly commended as a positive contribution of the private sector in support of government efforts to make Lagos waters safe and secure for legitimate businesses to thrive”.

7. The Nigerian Navy, subsequently, informed the NPA of its collaboration with OMS on the SAA project and stated that the project compliments the Navy’s “efforts to secure our maritime space and gives added comfort to operators in the region”.

8. The advent of the SAA, in collaboration with Nigerian Navy, on 27 February 2013, provided dedicated security patrols services for vessels that demanded extra protection while waiting offshore Lagos for berth allocation or conducting STS transfer operations.

9. This service is rendered purely on demand and was never made compulsory for vessels making port calls to Lagos, neither does its operation obstruct any agency of government from performing its statutory function or collection of levies that are due to the government.

10. It is noteworthy that by a Marine Notice of April 2014, the NPA, in approving the operations of the SAA, informed maritime stakeholders that SAA is one of the areas approved by the NPA for Ship-to-Ship (STS) and Ship-to-Rig (STR) operations offshore Lagos.

11. In addition, NIMASA, by Marine Notice No MN/11/13/SN02 also informed maritime stakeholders of the existence and location of the SAA and stated that the SAA “serves as an additional security service for provision of dedicated 24/7 watch to vessels seeking extra protection while at anchorage offshore Lagos”.

12. The SAA operation has been an invaluable addition to the general security arrangement provided by government agencies.

13. By the afore-mentioned collaboration, a minimum of three (3) security patrol boats (which are owned and maintained by OMS) are available at any time and operated by the Nigerian Navy but logistically supported by OMS; thus enabling the achievement of a 24/7/365 patrol and presence necessary to deter criminal elements who hitherto perpetrated various illegal and deleterious acts on Nigerian waters.

14. In the past six (6) years of the SAA operation, a 100 per cent success rate has been attained as there has not been any successful pirate attack on any vessel utilising the services at the SAA.

15. This success story has made the SAA a comfort zone and preferred location for captains of vessels coming to Lagos. It is a security solution that is working. As at today, the SAA is providing security for 26 vessels and 3 others conducting STS operations.

16. Since the inception of the SAA, OMS has invested heavily in a wide spectrum of security equipment and platforms and providing logistics support to the Nigerian Navy operations in the SAA.

17. This logistics support to maintain the constant presence at sea is at a huge cost and beyond the normal statutory allocations to the Nigerian Navy.

18. The stipend charged to vessels that utilise the services is to offset the cost of acquisition, general maintenance of the platforms and sustenance of the operations as the service delivery is at no cost to government. OMS has secured loans to finance the SAA, which is still a huge debt burden on OMS.

19. Our interactions with the shipping community around the world, confirmed wide acceptance of the stipend for dedicated 24/7 security service which is by far a less expensive option as opposed to embarking foreign armed security personnel on board vessels making port calls into Nigeria, which was the then practice and considered inimical to the security of the nation.

20. The availability of dedicated security service to shipowners calling at Nigerian ports also significantly reduced their war risk insurance premiums to the barest minimum. It is estimated that the SAA saves shipping companies circa USD225,000 on each call at Lagos ports. This is a win-win situation for both the shipping community and the Nigeria Government as the security service at the SAA is at no cost to Government.

21. From the above, it is clear that we are being unjustly discredited for offering patriotic services to our country. We deserve commendation not condemnation. Profit has never been our motivating factor. We believe in our country, so we serve with all our heart and might.

22. We urge NPA to retrace its steps in the SAA notice to maritime stakeholders in the interest of our country.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

SIGNED
Capt(Dr) Idahosa Wells Okunbo

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