‘Global West Cannot Drag Us To Court And Expect Help During Distress’ – NIMASA
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
In effort to exonerate self from blame over the sinking of “NIMASA- BARUGU” which sad event happened last Sunday, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has said it would amount to stupidity and conflict of interest to respond to Global West Specialist Vessels Limited distress calls, having taken the Agency to court over operational differences.
This is even as experts have argued that under the UNCLOS- maritime administrations world over are expected to respond to distress situations without discrimination. NIMASA further explained that the financial quagmire not only exposed fleets of GWSVL to corrosion and damage, but that their resultant distress status was avoidable if the company had played the good boy and availed itself of the Agency’s statutory and ubiquitous gracious umbrella.
In a statement titled “The Sunken “NIMASA- BARUGU” Vessel: Matters Arising”, the Agency faulted GWSVL for instituting legal cases against it and still expect the Agency to come to it’s rescue.
“If GWVSL wants NIMASA to assist with maintenance and other sundry expenses of their vessels, won’t they withdraw or suspend the cases instituted by it against NIMASA?
“But GWVSL prefers to eat their cake and have it. They insisted on going full steam ahead with the cases while applying all sorts of pressure through NGOs, Government Ministries, including the Media amongst others to force NIMASA to resume making payments to them.
“If GWVSL were dealing in good faith, once done with the criminal charges, they should have approached the Agency for settlement. But no, instead they went ahead to obtain an arbitration judgement against their erstwhile partners and co-sufferers of the specter of criminal allegations.
“Thereafter, they proceeded to seek an expert court order to enforce the arbitral award and attach the Agency’s accounts, while the Agency was completely unaware of the very doctrines of fairness equity and justice.
“At this point, NIMASA had no option but to begin to defend itself.”
According to NIMASA, to continue to enjoy it’s services, GWSVL must first drop all litigations against the Agency. But facts emerging indicate that NIMASA may be twisting the facts of the above financial issues, believed to be completely different and unconnected with GWSVL.
Grapevine report says the case of outstanding financial obligations are two fold, one prior to the NIMASA-GWSVL contract, and a second, within the contract frame; which alone fits into the Agency’s argument, above.
In 2011 based on presidential directive, NIMASA in collaboration with Mr. Government Tompolo’s team, embarked on an exercise to flush out pirates that had reportedly taken over Cotonou Waters in Benin Republic.
Code-named Operation Prosperity, Tompolo provided logistics support for NIMASA and the Navy attached to it for the exercise, which unfortunately, became an issue between Tompolo and NIMASA, when the later purportedly failed to pay.
From available reports, it is instructive to note that this exercise predate material evidences that NIMASA has thrown up in it’s statement, to explain why it refused to respond to Barugu’s distress.
Meanwhile, authoritative and dependable sources close to Tompolo’s camp says NIMASA is being economical with the truth, and advised Nigerians to avoid falling to the Agency’s alleged misinformation and misrepresentations.
A source who wishes to remain anonymous said, “NIMASA is just trying to play to the gallery by deceiving unsuspecting innocent Nigerians. The court issue involving unpaid money NIMASA quoted in it’s statement was before the instant contract.
“It has nothing to do with GWSVL, it was money NIMASA owed Tompolo in an exercise in 2011, it was President Jonathan that directed NIMASA to work with Tompolo to flush out Nigerian pirates that had taken over Cotonou Waters”, he added.
As things stand, Nigerians might just continue to watch as confused spectators until perhaps, NIMASA present all the details of the separate deals, to allow for clarity through undisguised presentation of all the material evidences.
Perhaps also, the references contained in the Agency’s statement about material litigations and arbitration would have to be supported by clearer explanations, since the later is a tool for amicable resolution of differences.
Thus far NIMASA has through its statement swiftly taking measures to assure Nigerians that it is working without bias, there is no doubt that the Agency will attract more credibility and understanding as soon as it also clears the air on the alleged financial outstanding from Operation Prosperity; in which some of the material evidences have been alleged to be in conflict with presentations by NIMASA on the controversial GWSVL contract.
Importantly, those whose business it is to know say that all GWSVL assets by virtue of its contractual agreement with NIMASA had reverted to the latter as new and entire owner, as at the date of the sinking of NIMASA-BARUGU.
But nevertheless this position, NIMASA in it’s statement added: “On Sunday 3rd April 2022, a video emerged on social media where a patrol vessel with the inscription NIMASA-Barugu on it and belonging to Messers Global West Specialist Vessels Limited sank in Lagos.
“The Boat was one of the Vessels owned by GWSVL and deployed for patrol during the implementation of a contractual agreement between the Company and the Agency, NIMASA.
“The contract which was entered into in 2012 was for Global West to provide platforms and other equipment for NIMASA to patrol the Nigerian Maritime domain effectively in the quest to attain the status of an efficient Maritime Administration.
“However, things went south (sour) when in 2015 the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC,), started investigating the contract and instituted criminal cases against Global West Specialist Vessels Limited.
“GSVSL, and more importantly, key NIMASA staff were charged to court for criminal related offences. NIMASA Senior Accountants, Auditors and other senior staff who were not charged to court were made to report at the EFCC every other day to answer questions on the PPP transaction involving Global West.
“In these circumstances, the Agency had to stop all transactions cum payments to GWVSL. Eventually, GWVSL escaped in a no-case submission against the criminal trial.
“However, this has nothing to do with the cases instituted by GWVSL against the Agency for claims ranging from breach of contract to demands for further damages for deliberately breaching the contract.
“The agency has done this resolutely, unflinchingly with a single-minded focus ignoring the noisy attempts by GWVSL as mentioned earlier to pressurize NIMASA into paying their bills while they awaited the crystallization of the proceeds of unfairly obtained judicial decisions.”
Despite it’s earlier declaration that the Global West fleet is a private endeavor for which the Agency has no associated interest whatsoever, it’s statement continued:
“Despite all these obvious challenges, NIMASA Management under this Administration made concerted efforts towards reactivating the few serviceable boats in the fleet of GWSVL, but was constrained by the legal encumbrances due to the nature of the cases in court.
“At this juncture, it is imperative to state that the Vessel which sank on Sunday the third of April somewhere in Kirikiri Lagos is solely the property of GWVSL.
“The Vessel is in sole possession of GWVSL, and vessel is also under the technical and economic control of GWVSL.”
While NIMASA insists that it is not responsible for the dead ship, it has however, gratuitously expressed it’s determination to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“Also worthy of note is that the Agency will be launching an extensive investigation into the circumstances that led to the sinking of a stationary vessel in a sheltered anchorage, free of the pearls of the sea and weather interference, in an unimaginable short time while crew members cheered on like fans in the stadium watching Arsenal maul Manchester United at the Emirates.”