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Nigeria, South Africa At War Over Seized $9.3 Million Cash


360News

September 19,  2014

Detectives in South Africa have rejected Nigerian government’s explanations of the purpose of the $9.3 million cash seized from two Nigerians and an Israeli as “flawed and riddled with discrepancies”.

The suspects told South African authorities that the money was meant for the procurement of arms for Nigerian intelligence agencies.

“… Although various explanations about the money were given to the investigating officer, these explanations were flawed and riddled with discrepancies,” the South African prosecution agency said in a statement sent to this newspaper.

The jet used to ferry the money is owned by Ayo Oritsejafor, who heads the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN.
Mr. Oritsejafor, a cleric, said he is not aware of the arms deal. He said although he owns the aircraft, it was managed by another company, Eagle Air Company, which in turn, leased the jet to a third party, Green Coast Produce Limited.

The Nigerian government in an unsigned statement, Tuesday, said it has provided South African authorities with documents and receipts to prove that the transaction was “legitimate.”

Nigerian security officials also said that it was normal practice to procure arms with cash.

“The Federal Government has submitted relevant data and documents on the transaction to South Africa and insisted that the transaction was legitimate. It also clarified that the funds were not laundered or smuggled for any covert manoeuvres. No launderer will be audacious to fly into a country in a chartered jet with such a huge cash,” a statement by PRNigeria, an agency that regularly disseminates media statements for the military, police and other security agencies in Nigeria explained.

The statement tallies with what top security officials told PREMIUM TIMES in confidence that the money was legit as the government decided to buy the arms secretly; because the U.S. government had allegedly blocked its efforts to buy arms openly.

However, the government’s explanation does not seem to be gaining traction with South African investigators as the Asset Forfeiture Unit, AFU, of the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa, NPA, has obtained a court order to freeze the money.

The NPA, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday said that the manner in which the money was brought into the country breached the country’s laws that deal with the transfer of foreign exchange of such proportion.

“The money was initially detained by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) as it was not disclosed or declared at customs, and was above the prescribed legal limit for the amount of cash that may be brought into the country,” it said in a statement.

Investigators also cast serious doubt on the Nigerian government’s explanation that the money was meant for the procurement of arms and that it has provided documents and receipt to back its legitimacy, raising serious concern that suspects might have been in the process of laundering the money before it was intercepted.

The NPA said its investigation shows that Tier One Services Group, the firm Nigerian government claimed it wanted to procure the arms from, is not authorised to sell or rent military hardware.

“In court papers, the NPA submitted evidence that Tier One is not registered with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee and is thus not authorised to enter into any agreements regarding the sale and/or rental of military equipment,” the statement read.

Tier One has apparently issued an invoice to a Cyprus based company, ESD International Group Ltd, ESD, in respect of the procurement of armaments and helicopters to be delivered to Nigeria. However, South African investigators said the time when the invoice was prepared and the time the money was brought in threw up some serious issues of its true intent.

The money was ferried to South Africa less than a week from the date the invoice was prepared (September 8, 2014).
The involvement of a Cyprus based company also heightens the suspicion that this may be a case of classical money laundering. Cyprus is notorious for its secretive banking system, which attracts shady characters and corrupt politicians looking to dry-clean ill-gotten funds.

The NPA added that the transaction did not follow normal procedure in the procurement of the kind of equipment it was alleged to have been meant for.

Op-Ed: We’re withdrawing from the Arms Procurement Commission, and here’s why


Daily Maverick

By A FEINSTEIN, P HOLDEN AND H VAN VUUREN

August 29, 2014

The Arms Deal was a uniquely damaging moment in our young democratic history. It was concluded after decades of uncontrolled spending on foreign and internal wars by the apartheid regime. From the signing of the contracts in 1999 up to R70 billion of public money continues to be spent on weapons of questionable utility. The country was not and is not facing any meaningful military threat. But rather the most pressing problems that faced us then as they do now are inequality, poverty and unemployment

Since its inception the Arms Deal has been dogged by well supported allegations of corruption. We together with many other activists have consistently challenged the State to fully investigate and prosecute these allegations. Four previous investigations have failed to fully probe the Arms Deal.

We have engaged with these matters in different capacities over many years and we have done this out of the commitment to the primacy of the Constitution and the rule of law in our democracy. Given this commitment we believe that all allegations of corruption must be investigated and prosecuted without fear and favour.

After careful consideration, with great disappointment we have decided to withdraw all participation in the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the R70 billion Arms Deal.

The appointment of the Commission raised great expectations that the truth would finally be established, and that this would challenge the interests of politicians, middlemen and large corporations in one of the most corrupt industries in the world. The Commission had the prospect of serving not only South Africans but all people across the globe campaigning against the devastating impact of corruption in the arms trade.

The Commission has failed on both accounts. It has missed a historic opportunity to support the struggle for transparency and accountability of the powerful.

We have not made our decision lightly. It follows nearly two years of actively trying to support the work of the Commission, assisted by an exceptional pro bono legal team led by Lawyers for Human Rights.

We have taken our decision due to serious and fatal concerns we have regarding the manner in which the Commission has conducted itself. There are four key reasons why we have decided to withdraw:

  1. The Chairman, Judge Willie Seriti, indicated that he was not interested in hearing evidence from witnesses about documents that they had not themselves written. Judge Seriti made this ruling during the testimony of Member of Parliament Mr David Maynier. This prevented Mr Maynier from giving any substantive evidence, as he was not the author of documents that emanated from investigations or government departments. This is particularly disturbing as this limitation was not applied to previous witnesses who were supportive of the Arms Deal. The implication of this ruling is that only those who have been involved in the Arms Deal can introduce evidence. How the Commission intends to discover the truth by only hearing from participants in the Deal is a mystery.

The Chair has also ruled that witnesses should only speak to corruption allegations of which they have personal knowledge. The logical conclusion of this ruling is that only those who have been corrupted, who have corrupted others, or who were intermediaries in such corruption, can give evidence of it. It is obvious that all of these parties have an interest in hiding the truth. Why would the Chair choose to rely solely on their opinions?

We have conducted extensive research into the Arms Deal. We have analysed thousands of documents, and interviewed people who are able to point to where evidence of corruption is likely to be found. We were not direct participants in the Arms Deal. If we are not allowed to talk to documents that we have not written, nor speak to corruption allegations based on documentary evidence, there is no point in our appearing as witnesses. This process will serve to undermine the critics without addressing the evidence they have accumulated. This can only serve to protect the corrupt and compromised.

In response to our attempt to resolve this issue, the Commission has informed us in their correspondence of 27 August 2014 that “The decision [to admit evidence of which a witness not the author, nor facts within a witness’ personal knowledge] will be influenced by the circumstances of each case, including the document’s relevance to the terms of reference and the purpose for which it is sought to be used.” There is no basis on which we can have any expectation that we will be permitted to give evidence on matters not within our personal knowledge, and rely on documents we are not the authors of. The Commission’s rulings to date in respect of other ‘critic’ witnesses, and the Commission’s rulings to date in respect of our cross-examination of other witnesses, clearly indicate the contrary. The Commission has not undertaken that it will now reverse its previous approach. (If it did so, procedural fairness would require the recall of a number of witnesses). Read more here.

South Africa: Armscor defends its counter-trade deals


BusinessDay

Mar 5, 2014 | Ernest Mabuza

Commission hears Armscor’s counter-trade agreements with foreign arms suppliers outside of the 1999 arms deal amounted to R5.4bn between 1988 and 2000

ARMSCOR’s counter-trade agreements with foreign arms suppliers outside of the 1999 arms deal amounted to R5.4bn between 1988 and 2000, the Arms Procurement Commission heard on Tuesday.

Johannes Bernhardus de Beer, Armscor’s manager of defence industrial participation agreements, was testifying about the origin and rationale of the concept of Defence Industrial Participation within Armscor, the state-owned arms procurement agency.

Offsets by foreign suppliers were required investments in South African industries and were a condition of winning contracts under the Strategic Defence Procurement Package, or arms deal.

The government announced in 1999 that it had signed contracts with a number of suppliers to purchase about R30bn worth of military equipment to modernise its defence equipment. Some of the equipment included submarines, helicopters and fighter aircraft.

The offsets, monitored by the Department of Trade and Industry and Armscor, were intended to yield significant economic benefits for the country from foreign investments by companies that were associated with the arms deal.

It was projected that offsets would bring R10bn into South Africa, with 65,000 jobs created. However, according to a department report released in October last year, only 13,690 jobs were created, and R6bn of foreign investment achieved.

Mr de Beer said on Tuesday the counter-trade agreements between 1988 and 2000 led to long-term arrangements between the foreign suppliers and the local defence industry and some benefits were still in existence today. One of the examples of local industrial participation was the production of the Impala light fighter aircraft at Atlas, later known as Denel Aviation. The aircraft was based on the Italian MB326 Mk I and Mk II aircraft, and was used by the South African Air Force from 1966 until 2005.

Mr de Beer said that by February 2000, 12 out of the 18 counter-trade agreements had been fulfilled and a total of R4.7bn of value passed to the local defence industry.

Mr de Beer was also expected to testify — possibly towards the end of the week — about what the Defence Industrial Participation contract terms were and how these were implemented during the arms procurement process in 1999.

The commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, is investigating allegations of fraud, corruption and irregularities in the 1999 acquisition of arms for the South African National Defence Force.

“The concept of offset and counter-trade is a worldwide phenomenon which originated from the days of bartering and developed to more sophisticated instruments of international business based on government procurement,” Mr de Beer said.

The commission continues.

Nigerian commissions new UAV


Written by Oscar Nkala, Thursday, 19 December 2013

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has commissioned the country’s latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which will be deployed as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance (ISR) platform in the fight against terrorism, maritime piracy and crude oil theft.

The UAV was unveiled in a ceremony on Tuesday attended by senior government officials and defence officials led by Air Force Chief of Staff Air Marshall Alex Badeh at the Kaduna Air Force base.

The aircraft, which has been named ‘Gulma’ meaning ‘gossip’ in the local Hausa language, was produced by the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) with the help of aerospace engineers from Cranfield University in Britain. Since 2007, the British institution has partnered the AFTI as part of the Nigerian government’s bid to develop an in-house capacity for advanced aviation design, research and development.
Powered by a 17 hp engine, the Gulma is built on a composite aluminium alloy structure, operates via radio control on a Micro Pilot FCS avionics system and weighs 40 kilogrammes.

It has a maximum cruise range of 923 km and a top flight speed of 86 knots. It can cruise at a maximum altitude of 10 000 feet and has an endurance of up to 5.8 hours. The AFIT team has so far trained 15 pilots to operate its growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony Jonathan said the unveiling of the aircraft is a milestone in Nigeria’s bid to develop a domestic defence and aerospace industry.

“Besides its diverse military applications, the UAV provides us with a range of benefits in disaster management, power line surveys, law enforcement operations, telecommunications, weather monitoring and aerial imaging/mapping. It is also becoming an important tool in news coverage, environmental safety monitoring, and oil and gas exploration surveys,” Jonathan said.

He said that through innovative research and development programmes, the Nigerian Navy, Air Force and Army engineering divisions have in the course of this year produced the country’s first indigenous navy combat vessel, armoured personnel carrier (APC) and bomb detection and disposal equipment.

Badeh said the launch of the Gulma underlines the country’s strong resolve to achieve self-sufficiency in military aviation technology and capability. “The Gulma has been designed to meet vast expectations and needs. It could be employed by the armed forces and security agencies for the protection of Nigeria. We also envisage viable partnerships with agencies such as National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the area of disaster management and the Nigerian Air Space Management Agency (NAMA) in the area of weather forecasting,” Badeh said.

He said the government should upgrade the AFIT from a limited innovative research outfit into a viable aircraft production centre with the capacity to mass-produce indigenous UAVs. Acting defence minister Labaran Maku said Nigeria needs a comprehensive policy to support the development of indigenous UAVs to enhance the operations of security services presently battling the Boko Haram insurgency in the north and maritime crimes and oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea and Niger Delta areas.

He said it is important for the Air Force to allow other security agencies to incorporate its UAVs into their operations so that the whole sector can make use of their full strategic potential. “Emphasis should now be placed on the harmonisation of our research and development programmes towards the attainment of a common goal to transform the Nigerian Armed Forces into one of the top fighting forces in the world.

“Working hand in hand with NAF and other (security) services, the Federal Ministry of Defence shall sustain its efforts at encouraging local content in its pursuit of military asset acquisition. Also the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigerian (DICON) shall be further empowered to provide support to the services in their respective and collective research and development efforts,” Maku said.

Earlier this year the Nigerian Air Force flew two indigenously developed unmanned aerial vehicles, which were presumed to be versions of the Amebo, which was unveiled at Air Expo 2012 in Kaduna. The Amebo I, II and III UAVs were developed by MSc students from the Air Force Institute of Technology. At the Air Expo, AFIT stated that test flights for Amebo I and II had been carried out by UK pilots in 2010 and 2011, but that a NAF pilot would perform the Amebo III test flight.

South Africa: DA to Submit a PMB Forcing Transparency On Arms Deals


AllAfrica.com

PRESS RELEASE

Tomorrow the Arms Procurement Commission begins public hearings into what appears to be the biggest corruption scandal in the history of South Africa.

One of the effects of the arms deal scandal was to destroy any scrutiny and oversight of future arms deals by Parliament.

Stung by the political fallout from the arms deal scandal, the Defence Department now refuses to disclose any detailed information about armaments acquisition to Parliament.

There is a complete lack of transparency on current Defence Department armaments acquisition programmes.

The fact is that we know less about arms deals now than we did a decade ago.

The Defence Department’s White Paper on National Defence for the Republic of South Africa (1996) requires the department to:

“… publish an annual Acquisition Master Plan to indicate all new acquisition projects required for political approval from the minister and to inform the Joint Standing Committee on Defence“; and

“… publish a medium-to-long-term Defence Requirements Statement to guide long-term technology and industrial planning”.

Moreover, the Defence Department’s Defence Material Division’s Policy, Process and Procedures for the Acquisition of Armaments in the Department of Defence (“DAP 1000”) is very clear about parliamentary oversight stating:

“The relevant parliamentary committee(s) on defence will have an oversight function to provide guidance to the DOD with respect to the relevant facets of its acquisition programmes. The oversight function will include guidance to the DOD with respect to timing of tenders, counter trade obligations, and acquisition prioritization. The DOD will submit bi-annual and ad hoc reports to the relevant Committee on Defence on all acquisition activities. The DOD will keep the relevant Committee on Defence abreast of developments in all its cardinal acquisition programmes, and will inform the relevant Committee on Defence at all relevant stages of such acquisition.”

However, for at least the past four years, the Defence Department has failed to produce any of these reports.

South Africa: Mbeki, Manuel to give evidence in arms probe


The Citizen

July 16th, SAPA

Former president Thabo Mbeki will testify as a witness in the first phase of the Arms Procurement Commission, it was announced.

The commission, which is probing the R70 billion arms procurement deal, will hold public hearings from August 5 until January 31, subject to President Jacob Zuma granting an extension beyond November, spokesman William Baloyi said in a statement on Monday.

Mbeki and Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel were set to testify in the second half of January.

Baloyi said the first phase of the commission would “deal with the rationale for the Strategic Defence Procurement Package”, and whether the arms and equipment acquired were under-utilised or not utilised at all.

The first witnesses would be navy and air force officials. Armscor witnesses would be named later.

Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils and Congress of the People president Mosiuoa Lekota would be called as witnesses between September 30 and October 4, followed by department of trade and industry officials until November 11.

Former Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin was expected to testify for three days in November, followed by National Treasury officials until the end of that month.

“It is also important to note that the programme is not cast in stone and circumstances prevailing at the hearings may require that it be adapted or altered, and this may also effect the sequence of witnesses,” Baloyi said.

“Some of the witnesses may be recalled at a later stage, when the commission deals with the terms of reference relating to allegations of impropriety, fraud and corruption in the acquisition process, a phase in which the ‘whistleblowers’ and those who are implicated will feature.”

The commission would be held in the council chambers of the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria.

The deal, which was initially estimated to cost R43 million, has dogged South Africa’s politics since it was signed in 1999, after then Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille raised allegations of corruption in Parliament.

Zuma himself was once charged with corruption after his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who had a tender to supply part of the requirements, was found to have facilitated a bribe for him from a French arms company.

The charges against Zuma were later dropped.

Comments on ANC taken out of context – Arms Procurement Commission


William Baloyi – Willie Seriti
15 March 2013
William Baloyi defends Chairperson Willie Seriti’s letter, says evidence and allegations not the same thing.

Arms Procurement Commission : Media Statement

The Commission has noted with concern the perception raised in a number of newspaper articles of the weekend of the 9th to 10th March 2013 and the immediately following days that this Commission does not intend, or seems to avoid, interrogating the allegations of corruption, fraud and other wrongdoing against the African National Congress (ANC), its officials, members and other people associated with it.

The perception or assertion arises from a letter dated 26 February 2013 that the Commission’s Chairperson had addressed to attorneys Abrahams Kiewits Incorporated of Cape Town in response to a demand that they made on behalf of their client, Mr Terry Crawford Browne, that we should summons the ANC and its officials to appear before the Commission to answer allegations against them and to produce certain documents (see below).

As is now the standard modus operandi of Mr Terry Crawford-Browne and his attorneys, correspondence exchanged between them and the Commission is routinely released to the media. No wonder that the letter in question is now in the public domain.

The demand to summons the ANC is a typical example of another unfortunate experience that the Commission has had in its interaction with Mr Terry Crawford-Browne and his attorneys, namely, the persistent attempt to prescribe to the Commission how to conduct its work, in particular, whom to call to appear before it and at what stage. We shall revert to the latter aspect in due course.

We are of the view that the statement that the Commission was not aware of the “evidence implicating the ANC” has been read out of context and blown out of proportion. Evidence and allegations are not the same thing. The Commission is fully aware of the various allegations levelled against some officials and the members of the ANC and other people associated with it.

These allegations form part of the on-going investigations that the Commission is busy with. In this regard, there is a tendency for some people, including, unfortunately, some media practitioners and commentators to elevate allegations to the status of evidence even before they have been tested in an appropriate forum. The fact is that even if there is evidence in the public domain implicating some people it still has to be tested for veracity and credibility before conclusions can be drawn.

We point out that the Commission is in possession of massive documentation containing information implicating many people and entities in the subject matter of our investigations. The public must understand that before the information is properly interrogated in the upcoming public hearings the Commission cannot be party to any exercise to canvass it in the public domain and bandy around the names of those implicated.

We have a duty to safeguard the information placed at our disposal and not to divulge it prematurely. Nor can we disclose the identities of the people implicated before they are given the opportunity to answer for themselves.

The principles of natural justice demand that we be fair to both the complainants and the suspects. For this reason, the witnesses who are given access to the documents in our possession cannot be allowed to divulge the information gained before the issues are ventilated in the public hearings.

The media statement that we issued on the 24th November 2012 wherein we announced the intention to commence with the public hearings on the 4th March 2013 was accompanied by a list of the witnesses to be called in the first phase of the public hearings.

We explained that most of these witnesses were selected based on their roles in exposing the allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Package. It may be recalled that the list include people who have written extensively on the subject and seem to have extensive knowledge of what transpired. It was imperative to fully canvass their evidence to lay the ground work for the subsequent hearings.

We made it clear then that it is in the subsequent phases that key people who were involved in the acquisition process as well as those who are implicated in allegations of wrongdoing will be called. This is how we planned to conduct the public hearings and that programme has not changed.

It is, however, not cast in stone and may be altered if circumstances demand it. But the decision as to whom to summons at what stage and which documents to call for falls within the exclusive discretion of the Commission and we will not be dictated to in this regard.

It is apposite at this stage to refer to paragraph 1.5. of the Terms of Reference:

“Whether any person/s, within and/or outside the Government of South Africa, improperly influenced the award or conclusion of any of the contracts awarded and concluded in the SDPP procurement process and, if so:

1.5.1 whether legal proceedings should be instituted against such persons, and the nature of such   legal proceedings ….”

This is clearly one of the issues we must probe and to suggest that we will not investigate people involved in the government of South Africa is rather mischievous.

Finally, we have released a media statement explaining why the public hearings that were to start on the 4th March 2013 had to be postponed to the 5thAugust 2013 to run until the end of November 2013.

A revised programme of action and a schedule of witnesses to be called, the dates on which each will appear as well as the venue of the hearings will be released to the public timeously before the 5th August 2013. We trust that everybody, including the media, will give this Commission the space to focus on the preparations for those upcoming hearings and complete its investigations.

Statement issued by Mr William Baloyi, Spokesperson: Arms Procurement Commission, March 15 2013

Text of Judge Willie Seriti’s letter to Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys:

Arms Procurement Commission

Private Bag X02
The Tramshed
South Africa
Pretona
0126
Tel: 012 358 3999
Fax: 012 358 3969
Email: admin@armscomm.org.za

Abrahams Kiewitz Incorporated

For attention: Mr Charles Abrahams

Dear Mr Abrahams

1. Your letter dated 25 February 2013 has reference.

2. Currently, no evidence implicating the African National Congress has been brought to the attention of the Commission. Should such evidence come to light, the Commission will deal with the matter as it deems appropriate.

3. The Commission wishes to express its irritation with the persistent allegation by your client and yourselves that evidence leaders are kept in silos, implying that certain information is withheld from some ofthem. No evidence leader is kept in the dark about the activities of the Commission. We hope that this allegation will not be repeated. The incessant attempts to tell the Commission what to do should come to an end.

Yours sincerely

ARMS PROCUREMENT COMMISSION

Seriti JA JUDGE LW SERITI
Chairperson of the Commission

Israel defence equipment dealers eye African security market


The East African

By Steve Mbogo

Israeli defence equipment manufacturers are looking to Africa as their next big market as they seek a share of the continent’s growing defence spending.

Israel currently controls less than one per cent of Africa’s weapons market and is seeking a larger share as an increasingly richer Africa will spend more to meet growing public and private security needs.

Executives in Israel’s defence companies said they are receiving more inquiries from Africa for a range of equipment for defence, police, prisons and intelligence sectors collectively known as homeland security.

Demand for homeland security solutions is rising in Africa as the countries face growing threats from secessionist groups, transnational criminals and religious fundamentalists among others.

African armies, police and prison services are also reforming as the private security industry expands, offering a growing market for security solutions vendors.

Homeland security spending is growing across the world partly because nations are increasingly facing asymmetrical war from non-state actors. This is expected to drive the growth of the defence market,” said Yaakov Perry, former head of Israel General Security Service, Shin Bet.

In East Africa countries are facing homeland security threats. Kenya is cracking down on the secessionist group Mombasa Republican Council, Uganda is still pursuing the militant group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as Tanzania faces secession threats from Zanzibar while Rwanda and Burundi also have delicate security situations.

Discovery of high value natural resources has also prompted countries to invest more in security as exploration companies also invest in private security to secure their facilities.

Homeland security spending is expected to reach $344.5 billion in 2022 up from $178 billion dollars in 2010, with significant growth in aviation security, communications, data and cyber security and counter terrorism, according to the Israel Export and International Co-operation Institute.

Israel’s arms exports to Africa have been minimal, accounting for less than one per cent of transfers of major weapons to sub-Saharan Africa for the period 2006–10 according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms Industry Database.

In the period 2006–10 Israel delivered major weapons to nine sub-Saharan states—Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Seychelles, South Africa and Uganda.

For most of these recipients, imports from Israel made up less than a quarter of their total arms imports, SIPRI added.

Key defence manufacturers eyeing operations in Africa include Mer Systems, a security and communications company, Tar, which sells military and police equipment, 3M Israel that deals with security and protection services, Blue Bird that sells unmanned aerial vehicles and Elbit Systems that offers intelligence and cyber security solutions.

Nigeria to commission first locally built warship


DefenceWeb

June1, 2012

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will today commission Nigeria’s first locally produced warship, the NNS Andoni, at the Nigerian Naval Dockyard in Lagos.

The 31 metre long Nigerian Navy Seaward Defence Boat had its keel laid at the Naval Dockyard in December 2007, with full construction beginning in January the following year, according to Nigerian media. Between January 2008 and April 2009 the superstructure and shell were completed, but construction was delayed due to funding issues until Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral OS Ibrahim approved extra funding.

Ibrahim late last month said that the vessel was “the first warship constructed locally in the West African subregion.” He added that it was a bold step taken by the Navy as part of the governments’ transformation agenda.

The vessel was conceived as a research and development project by Vice Admiral GTA Adekeye and Rear Admiral GJ Jonah, who were at the time Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Naval Engineering respectively.

The NNS Andoni is believed to be inspired by the 35 metre Argungu class patrol craft (NNS Argungu, NNS Yola, NNS Bras, NNS Epe) supplied by West Germany in the 1970s.

Jonathan is also expected to lay the keel of a second Seaward Defence Boat, according to Field Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Olufemi Ogunjimi. The Nigerian Navy is expected to receive nearly two dozen new acquisitions under this year’s defence budget.

In strengthening its military capabilities, Nigeria has paid particular attention to improving security in the Niger Delta and off its 780 kilometre long coast, where it has numerous oil installations.

Jonathan recently approved the purchase of two new 1 800 t Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Nigerian Navy, which will use them mainly for maritime surveillance, patrol and response tasks. Other roles of the vessels would be protection of offshore assets, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) patrol and surveillance, search and rescue and oil spill control.

The contract for the two OPVs was signed on April 18 this year, with China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Limited, the trade arm of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC). The first will be built in China while around 70% of the second one will be built in Nigeria in order to enhance local capability through technology transfer. They will be delivered in around three years time.

The OPVs will be 95 metres long, with a draft of 3.5 metres. They will be powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines, giving a speed of 21 knots per hour, and will be armed with one 76 mm and two 30 mm guns. Crew complement will be 70 sailors and endurance 20 days. They will be able to carry and support a helicopter off a rear deck.

The 2012 Defence Budget Proposal makes provision for three Shaldag Mk III fast patrol craft, three 24 metre coastal patrol craft and six 17 metre Manta Mk II ASD littoral interceptors (total cost N2.2 billion/US$13.7 million). In addition, the purchase of helicopter and ship spares will amount to N1.04 billion (US$6.5 million), according to Budget Office documents.

The FY2011 defence budget approved the acquisition of two offshore patrol vessels, the refurbishment of six coastal patrol craft by TP Marine and the delivery of nine Manta Mk II ASD craft.

French shipbuilder OCEA is building the three 24 metre coastal patrol craft and commenced sea trials of the first vessel on March 13. Delivery is expected this month.

The Suncraft Group is expected to construct the six Manta Mk II ASD vessels, bringing the total ordered over the last several years to 21. The Manta Mk II first entered service with the Nigerian Navy in 2008.

Nigeria’s Navy is seeking government approval to acquire up to 49 ships and 42 helicopters over the next ten years to police the nation’s territorial waterways and Gulf of Guinea, according to Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ishaya Ibrahim.

The Nigerian Navy has been allocated N69 billion (US$433 million) under this year’s budget while the Army has been allocated N122 billion (US$766 million), and the Air Force N64 billion (US$402 million), reports the Nigerian Budget Office. The navy has about 7 000 personnel.

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