HSL International Limited, the firm the Federal Government awarded the Deep Blue Project contract, is not registered, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) has said.
The CAC made this known in a response to an inquiry by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Navy.
President Muhammadu Buhari, 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 $214.83m including $195.3m for the actual contract and an additional $19.53m NIMASA agreed to pay to HSL for management training consideration.
The Chairman of the committee, Yusuf Gagdi, disclosed at an investigative hearing held in Abuja on Wednesday that the lawmakers were shocked when the CAC said it did not have HSL on its records, and asked 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.
Gagdi disclosed that several ministries, departments, and agencies as well as corporations and parastatals of the Federal Government had been invited to appear before the committee, including the Ministry of Transportation; Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Bureau of Public Procurement, among others.
The lawmaker said some had dissociated themselves from the contract, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Nigerian Ports Authority.
NIMASA DG Bashir Jamoh
He said, “Then, this one is the one that gives me a headache that I want members and everybody here to hear (about). We wrote a letter to the Corporate Affairs Commission and this is what they said (in their response):
“Please be informed that there is no information on the exact name HSL International Limited readily available as a registered entity on the Corporate Affairs Commission’s records. You may wish to, however, forward the available documents in support of their registration to us, to enable us to investigate further.
“So, when the ministry (of transport) comes, we will ask them the records of that HSL so that we will forward them to the Corporate Affairs Commission for further investigation. But as it is, they have said they don’t have records regarding that (company).”
Gagdi also noted that the committee had invited HSL International Limited as well as some relevant civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations.
He noted that with the exclusion of the CBN, NPA and the OAcGF, “It has reduced the number of agencies that will appear here to NIMASA and (Ministry of) Transport, then the services, then HSL which we don’t know whether it is true or not.”
The lawmaker stated, “We will get there; we will know who the owners of HSL are.”
“For the purpose of those of you that have our letters of invitation, I am in receipt of a communication from the Ministry of Transport requesting and appealing to this committee to change their date of appearance from yesterday (Tuesday) and we have given them another date to appear – on Tuesday next week – to explain because they seem to be at the center of most of the issues that we are going to be unveiling here, as well as NIMASA.
“We cannot attend to the two institutions differently. The Minister of Transport as well as DG of NIMASA must come before this committee together so that whenever we need answers from the two, they will be present at one sitting to give us the required answers to the questions that members and Nigerians are going to ask them on their roles in the Deep Blue contract.”
The House had on December 15, 2021, mandated its Committee on Navy to investigate the legality of the Deep Blue contract agreement whether it is in line with extant laws and regulations, and the standards of all platforms purchased for the Nigerian Navy to determine whether they are according to specifications.
The committee was also to determine the actual amount of money spent by the Federal Government on the Deep Blue contract and any other matter relating to the Deep Blue contract, and was to report back within eight weeks for further legislative action.
A member of the House, Benjamin Kalu, had moved a motion to call for the investigation, which was titled ‘Need to investigate the “Deep Blue” contract to HSL International Limited.’
Moving the motion, Kalu recalled that the Federal Ministry of Transportation, on July 27, 2017, and on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, entered into a contract known as the ‘Deep Blue’ contract of $195,300,000, an equivalent of N59.84bn, with a foreign private company, HLS International Limited, for the supply of certain security and surveillance equipment and systems.
According to him, HLSI was also to establish the Integrated National Coastal Surveillance and Waterways Protection Solutions, with command and control of infrastructure in the nation’s territorial waters.