The disagreement between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and INTELS Nigeria Limited deepened yesterday as the agency said it would soon begin bidding for the withdrawn pilotage contract.
The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman yesterday said the company was trying to prove to be above the law of the Federal Government of Nigeria, adding that the authority would not condone that attitude.
Bala-Usman said the government would follow the issue to the letter and open a fresh bidding in a transparent manner for prospective contractors.
She assured the jittery workers of the oil and gas logistics giant that once they possess the required skills, the new contractor would engage their services.
The NPA boss alleged that INTELS had refused to comply with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the Federal Government, as it insisted on deducting its money from source.
“INTELS wanted to continue to do the job and deduct their money from source and then remit the balance to NPA, due to the fear of delay. I have, therefore, assured them that the money would be paid within seven working days and where we exceed these days, we would be ready to pay for the delays. No company is above the law and it is only when all corporate entities obey the laws of the country that everyone benefits. There must be a level playing field for all players in the sector and this is the commitment of the NPA,” she said.
INTELS alleged that the management of NPA deliberately frustrated attempts to address the issues raised by the introduction of the TSA in the execution of its pilotage agency agreement.
There were reports that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has placed a seal on INTELS property in Onne, asking the company to pay unremitted taxes. But the company’s spokesman, Bolaji Akinola, debunked the report which he said was concocted by some unreliable sources to destabilise INTELS.
A statement by INTELS said the issues arose because the pilotage agency agreement, signed in 2010, did not envisage the TSA, and as such did not factor it into its implementation. The company said it borrowed $1.4 billion (N428.4 billion) from banks to execute the agreement with the understanding that the debt would be offset from monies realised from the pilotage services paid directly to the banks.
Akinola said meetings, letters and proposals on how to resolve the TSA imbroglio were rebuffed by the NPA managing director. “Deliberate stumbling blocks were placed on the path of resolving the issues and this is indicative of a sinister motive,” Akinola said yesterday.
According to him, INTELS on May 5, 2017, sent a letter to NPA proposing the opening of a jointly signed account between the company and NPA to which the boat service revenues would have been directed, but that the proposal, like many others, was rebuffed.
He also faulted claims by NPA that the contract was terminated based on the advice of the attorney-general of the federation.
“At what point are revenues eligible to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund? NPA acting on behalf of the Federal Government entered into a profit sharing agreement with INTELS that 72 per cent of the revenue goes to NPA while 28 per cent is for INTELS.
“The objective interpretation of the constitution should be that the revenue due to the federation should be the 72 per cent due to NPA,” he said.
Akinola also said that NPA could not fault INTELS in the execution of the contract, “which we handled most diligently.”
The spokesman said the management of NPA was pandering to the antics of the company’s detractors at the expense of government revenue, huge investments and several jobs, contrary to the position of fairness and objectivity that it should have adopted.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, yesterday alleged that with the faceoff between NPA and INTELS, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, was being persecuted over his presidential ambition in 2019.
Reacting to the decision by the FIRS to seal INTELS over tax evasion, he warned government agencies to steer clear of politics.
In a statement in Abuja, Frank condemned the decision to shut the firm, believed to belong to Atiku, adding that Nigerians should rise up to the situation.
Meanwhile, sequel to the Federal High Court judgement that the Nigeria LNG is not liable to make payments to Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the NLNG has formally issued a demand notice for the remittance of $315 million payment.
The General Manager, External Relations, NLNG, Kudo Eresia-Eke, who confirmed this in a statement yesterday said the sum represented the payments made under protest to the agency by NLNG since 2013, as well as direct and shipping losses incurred by NLNG due to the initial two-day blockade of the Bonny Channel by NIMASA in May 2013.
The Head, Corporate Communication Team of NIMASA, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, said the agency would go ahead and appeal the judgement.