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NATIMS annoyed over seaports terminal operators’ comments during CGC’s tour of Lagos

The Nigerians Against
Theft in the Maritime Sector (NATIMS) a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has
expressed its disappointment over comments by certain seaports terminal
operators in Lagos, South-West Nigeria against other operators outside Lagos when
the Comptroller-General (CG) of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hammed
Ali (rtd), toured their facilities in the course of his recent visit to the NCS
Zone ‘A’.

A press statement
signed by its Chairman, Dr. Jonahs Bankole, a copy of which was made available
to newsmen
, NATIMS said that it “believes and is convinced
that Nigeria would be worse for it in terms of revenue generation if the Federal
Government was blackmailed into mortgaging the bright future of the nation’s
maritime sector by acceding to the requests” of the terminal operators
levelling allegations against others.

The NGO stated: “NATIMS
came to the informed conclusion based on the following reasons:
·       
Two of the companies that complained about monopoly
are notorious for the illegal diversion of vessels. While one of them was
closed for 36 days between December 2015 and January 2016 for illegally
diverting a vessel, the other paid N2.5 billion in February 2016 before a ship
that was diverted to its terminal was released. 
·       
 The two companies are still in court restraining
the National Assembly, the Attorney- General of the Federation, Ministries of
Transport, Trade and Investment, Nigerian Ports Authority and Nigeria’s
President from processing and amending the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority
Act. 
·       
It is the same group of agitating companies that were
dealt a heavy blow in March 2016 when a Federal High Court in Lagos struck out
their suit against the federal government on grounds for lack of jurisdiction.
In the suit, Ports and Terminal Operators Nigeria Limited (PTOL) had alleged
that vessels meant for their jetties were being diverted to other terminals
since October 2013. To show their desperation, they filed a suit in court that
did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the case and obtained an injunction
which allowed them to receive large ocean going vessels until the suit was struck
out. Government must have lost lots of revenue while the injunction
lasted. 
·       
During the CG’s visit, the companies accused
government agencies of short changing the Federal government in terms expected
revenue from the maritime sector when they are indeed perpetrators of the same
offence. It is a known fact that any ship carrying oil and gas cargo and
illegally diverted to a private jetty instead of an appropriate terminal as
required by law translates into a huge financial loss to the federal
government. Instead of discharging at the rate of 5.8 US dollars per ton of
cargo at the appropriate terminal, same transaction goes for one dollar at the
private jetties. 
·       
The FPSO Egina project presented by
one of the operators as the most worthy project of all times is fraught with
litigations as a report contained in Thisday newspaper of
April 6, 2016 shows that a legal firm has commenced committal proceedings
against some of the promoters of the project. On April 14, 2016, The Nation newspaper
ran a story where a lawyer urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop work on the
FPSO project until all legal issues about the project are resolved.” 

Recalling that the
Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, advised the company during a stakeholders
meeting of concessionaires in Lagos to stop further implementation of the
project until controversies surrounding it were resolved, NATIMS said: “The
companies are so stubborn that they are disobeying Amaechi who had told them to
restrict their operations with the limits of the law or face sanctions
especially as regards the handling of oil and gas cargo.”
NATIMS stated that it
“also recalled that over the years, NPA had offered technical explanations on
why private jetties would not be allowed to receive FPSO and ocean-going
vessels and the reasons had to do with the shallow nature of the depth of the
water where the jetties are located, space required for large vessels to manueover,
the need to avoid any mishap which would have dire consequences for the
movement of other vessels.”
According to NATIMS,
“there is a Presidential order banning private jetties from receiving
ocean-going vessels at their terminals directly without such vessels first
berthing at concessioner ports and obtaining all clearances before proceeding
to final destination for discharging.”
The NGO went on:
“NATIMS read with satisfaction the 10-paragraph statement issued by the NCS
after the visit which showed that the essence of the CGs visit to terminal
operators in Tin-Can Island was “`aimed at standardising Customs procedures,
harmonising operations and enhancing revenue collection” and not to disclose
monopoly among other issues that belong to the Federal Ministry of Transport.
 “NATIMS also
wishes to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that one of
the companies forged a document that allowed it to receive two ocean going
vessels per week and that it smuggled it into a government gazette. The Federal
Ministry of Justice has also disassociated itself from the document.

 “NATIMS wishes to
advise the Federal Government to investigate all the issues raised before
considering the demands made by the terminal operators in Tin-Can Island in
their desperate bid to grab more business space in the nation’s maritime
sector.”

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