NPA vs. OMS: Capt. Hosa clarifies issues on SAA, trumps Transport Minister, Amaechi’s claims of fraud in a viral video [with two video clips]

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By Yinka Jones

Less than twenty-four hours after a video clip of an African Independent Television (AIT) interview by Ijeoma Osammor in which the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, claimed that the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) operated by the Ocean Marine Solution (OMS) Limited in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy was riddled with fraud, went viral, another video clip in which the Chairman of OMS, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, clarified the issues around the SAA to the joint Senate Committee on Navy, Marine Transport and Finance, at a public hearing last year, is doing the round in the social media to counter Amaechi’s narrative.

While the Transport Minister was responding to a question by the anchor on the provision of security in the SAA by Captain Hosa Okunbo’s OMS, he had asked, apparently taking the issue out of context: “what security is Captain Hosa Okunbo providing?”

Whereas, the Navy provides the security while OMS provides the vessels, the terms of collaboration between them had been defined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered into by both parties since 2007.

But the Transport Minister would appear to be more concerned about the money that he claims OMS is making from the SAA and not the huge investments that th company had made to build the SAA and ensure that ship that berth there were protected against pirates’ attacks.

According to Amaechi, “He (referring to Capt. Hosa) charges each vessel that visits the waters $2,500 the first day.  Then, after that, he charges $1500 every day.  He does not pay that money to the Federal Government.  He makes $17 million from that activity.  Who approved it? Nobody.  As Minister of Transport, I said ‘no’, that we can provide that security. $495 million has been approved by the Federal Government to a company that is draining and will take over the waters.”

He had also claimed, among other issues, that Captain Hosa was insisting that he must hold unto the SAA security activity.

But the clarifications by Captain Hosa Okunbo put back in context and helped to refocus attention on the issues around the formation of the OMS while Amaechi was just preparing to be governor of Rivers State in 2007.

The Hosa Okunbo clarifications that lasted for eleven minutes and twenty-four seconds had brought the Senate Committee on Navy up to speed on the story of how OMS started in 2007 at the height of militancy in the Niger Delta region where the country would have been producing less than 300,00 barrels of crude per day.

He said that the late former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral August Aikhomu, who was the first chairman of OMS, was the one that came up with the idea against the backdrop of what some private companies were doing, for instance, in London by providing platforms for the protection of the fishery industry in the North Sea; and in the Indian Ocean where private companies procured platforms for the Indian Navy to protect oil and gas industry.

Describing the OMS action as an intervention, Captain Hosa said the company wrote to the Navy in 2007, bought only three vessels when the business started  because, according to him, “it was pertinent to open up the Mistral which was shut in with 70,000 barrels of crude oil per day.”

He said “there were bullet holes on Shell’s EA fields; Addax was attacked on daily basis and Shell was going to close the whole of eastern production because of tank up in Bonny.  These were new challenges and we came in to intervene in national interest because at the time, there was no other Nigerian businessman that was ready to procure a vessel and put it in harm’s way.

“I want to see a Nigerian businessman who is ready to procure a vessel of about $3 to $4 million, sometime $6 million and hand it over to the Navy completely without insurance, in harm’s way, to defend this country.  We took the risk.  No one else was ready to do so.

“We started with three vessels with Mistral where 70,000 barrels per day were shut in.  We opened and every other person was looking at us.  Now that clarifies what I am telling you.  We stood in the gap between the Navy to carry out their statutory responsibilities and oil companies who were ready to pay for our service.

“If we were to pay the Navy, then the prices would have been crazy (would have skyrocketed).  We took that responsibility; we sat with the oil companies and it was the mark, in line with industry practice, benchmark in line with industry practice.  There were vessels that oil companies rented from individuals.

“Before the OMS strategy, Naval men were put on vessels; they were put on tugboats; they were put on houseboats; and pirates came in with their element of surprise and started killing Naval men.  They killed many Naval men; that is why the Navy is not talking here (public hearing).  I want you to talk.  Your men were killed in this country until we came on board to find this solution that I am talking about right now.

“We started with the Mistrals and mistrals became a success story.  Addax came. We bought vessels.  Shell ran to us.  Bullet holes in Shell’s EA were restored.  Production of 200,000 barrels per day was restored.  Tank up in Bonny was restored.  That was how we developed capacity and we started buying vessels, borrowing money to buy vessels.  That was how we were able to build this capacity that we are talking about.

“At the advent of amnesty, all the conditions that the Navy gave to us in 2007, which we met, are here (pointing to a document).  When it came to this Secure Anchorage Area (SAA), my MD was still in service…If you, people, remember there was a time that all shipping activities were relocated to the West African coast.  If you wanted to clear your goods, you would to Cotonou or to Lome or Accra.  There was a high piracy rate in Lagos.  We were invited by the Navy in line with our success in past activities, that we had capacity and that we should come and help them. That was how we came; we were invited.

“When we came, they told us to buy this platform for the Navy.  It was just like you 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 platforms at our own cost, maintained at our cost.

“We wanted to stop in the first year because we were losing so much money.  We went to Norway, London, Singapore, South Africa all at our costs to meet with ship owners. We told them that you are bringing mercenaries to our waters costing you $225,000 a daily, which was 7,500 per mercenary, at least for three that you carry every day.  We asked them: why do you want to carry them to our waters?  We told them we had a solution for them.  We told them that our government did not deserve this.

“They said it was a win-win situation, that instead of them paying 7,500 for 30 days-the whole voyage, they would pay a stipend for us to be able to maintain our vessels.  And they said they were ready to pay.  That was how SAA started. If we were to pay money to NPA or if we were to pay money to the Navy, the cost would probably have been higher because we did a proper proposal, which we submitted to the Navy and the Navy said that as long as it was not going to be at any cost to government.  It is there in the document we presented to you.  That was how we embarked on this business.

“At no time, six years in operations, Sir, having procured these equipment and run this service for six years, at no time did NPA call us to say, OMS, come: you are making so much money here, let us make the money together, we would have said okay.  If they had said OMS, we want to rent your vessels and we want to collect the money, we would agree. If they had said in line with the spirit of ease of doing business, we don’t want you to charge vessel; we would rent your vessels so that it can be free; we would agree.

“There was no discussion. We would just be sacked on the pages of newspapers after these investments.  And, again, what is painful is, derogate my image and derogate my integrity.  That is what is more painful; it is not the business, because I don’t do business because of money.  I have served this country meritoriously with my integrity completely intact.

“Sir, Chairman, Navy, I have fifty vessels with the Navy that will go to war for this country without recourse to OMS, that can go to war for Nigeria. They do not need to contact us before they go to (deploy them in) war for this country.  That is the extent of our commitment to national development.

“Our records are there in NNPC.  Our records are there in IOCs.  What is paining me in this whole matter, Sir, is my integrity that NPA (is running in the mud). The NPA did not contact us for anything.  NPA never called us to say we have been terminated.  NPA never called us for any form of meetings at all.

“If I am a thief behind your house, how would it take you six years before you find out that I am a thief.  Even if I am a thief, won’t call me and catch me rather than sack me and throw aspersions at my integrity on the pages of national newspapers without being engaged.

“And, Navy, I have been told, and it is very obvious here that you have been told that you wanted to dismantle SAA.  Navy, did you at any time call OMS to say this is the plan of NPA? Did you ever call us?  So, we would stand in the gap for you and stand in the gap for this country.  Now money is nothing to me; my integrity is what is important to me.  If you tell me to stop this service today, we are ready; but we should have been informed that, look Navy would inform us because you gave us MoU on the basis of which we have been operating; we should have been informed that NPA said you people should stop.  Nobody informed us.  With all these investments, with over fifty vessels with you, you throw me out through the window and derogate my character.  That is unacceptable.”

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