CNBC Africa’s Esther Awoniyi caught up with Hadiza Bello Usman, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority and discussed the countries Maritime space.
Let’s talk about the much publicised dispute between the NPA and INTELS, we understand it has been resolved, tell us about that.
One of the issues we’ve had with the INTELS is the non-compliance to TSA, as you are aware, the Nigerian Government instituted the Treasury Single account which is the one account that all revenues needs to be paid into. The INTELS collects revenues on behalf of the Nigerian Ports Authority and had refused to comply to the TSA and kept retaining those revenues in their coffers. We insisted that they must comply, as no company is above the laws of the country and we went through the whole process. We issued a notice of termination to the INTELS for which they apologised and they are now complying fully to the TSA.
So was that the turning point? The apology that came from the INTELS? From the documents I read and following this story, it looked as if the INTELS was digging its heels and insisting on its position and it looked like this was going to end in the high court
The INTELS understood that they couldn’t violate the laws of the land and they complied. I think it is important for all entities operating in an environment to adhere to the rules and regulations. What we seek to ensure is that we have a level playing field and you must apply to the regulations. At no point was the Nigerian Ports Authority not going to remit their portion of the revenues. All other third party agreements that we had in the Nigerian Ports Authority have a similar structure so why should the INTELS feel that it can operate outside of the law. The other companies are complying, why can’t you comply?
The contract that was terminated, has it been restored?
We are now in the process of recalling the notice of termination, but we have a few financial issues we need to resolve. Within the period of 2017, INTELS collected revenues on our behalf and did not remit any monies. So we have an outstanding of 48 million dollars that has not been paid by INTELS for the period of 12 months which represents 30 per cent of the revenues we generated on that service. We believe these are monies that are meant for Nigerians and those monies need to be given to us to remit to the TSA account.
So what is the response of the INTELS on those monies and have they said, yes we understand and agree and we will pay?
They have agreed that they will pay but my point is that you pay now. If you look at the relationship, if we had a TSA account, this would not arise. The monies would come to our coffers and we would pay them but because the monies were going to their coffers, they chose to retain the monies. How can you have a situation where a private company sits on your revenues and refuses to remit those monies to you and refuses to comply to the treasury single account? If we had the TSA in place, we would not be in a situation where INTELs have 48 million dollars of government revenues in their coffers for 12 months and they refuse to pay. I have also made the INTELS understand that we are going to charge them for interest on that money for the period it has been with them.
Obviously that is a lot more than 48 million dollars.
48 million dollars plus interest for the period the monies have been with them
So what is happening now? Is it that they cannot pay now and are asking for an extended or to pay in tranches?
You see these are monies that have been generated so you have no reason to say you cannot pay. You provided a service and you were paid for it, so the monies were collected by you .
Are they saying they cannot pay now and want to pay later?
Well, they are just behaving like INTELS and trying just not to pay by being silent about it. The letters that we have written are being silenced and they are just saying nothing. We’ve written to them, we’ve notified them, we’ve held discussions with them and told them that you must pay these monies. INTELS have been silent and evasive on giving a confirmed position on it
What action would you take if this continues?
This week we are communicating to the INTELS to the extent that if they don’t remit these monies to us, we would not withdraw the notice of termination.
So have you given them a deadline?
Yes, we have given them a deadline on payments that they need to make and if they don’t, the notice of termination will stand. It’s a violation of the contract of agreement if you refuse to remit the monies that are meant for an agency of the government. I haven’t put the date on issuing it but I’m giving the INTELS ls a possible two weeks window to provide that payment following which the notice of termination will not be withdrawn. I just want to add that all procedure have been done, all manners of communications have been made to INTELS to remit those monies
So you can say you have given them amble time?
Ample time and ample notice. I keep saying that these are monies that were generated so it’s not as if I’m asking you to pay for something with your money, these are revenues that you collected for a service on behalf of the NPA. You cannot even say that you do not have the monies.
Now, let’s talk about the blue economy. So much has been said. There is more flesh to the talk that Africa should develop its blue economy but for Nigeria, how are we planning to tap into our blue economy? Is there a vision or blue print?
There is an ongoing discussion on developing a policy on the blue economy, we believe that it’s an integral part of the Nigerian economy development. The NPA is putting in place and deploying infrastructure to enable the blue economy thrives, while concurrently, the ministry of transportation is working on concluding the policy as it were. We believe that providing an enabling environment, just to speak again about the Egina where we took out a monopoly. If you were aware, there was indeed a monopoly in oil and gas cargos where particular cargos are meant or designated for certain locations. And upon the removal of this monopoly by this administration, we were able to liberalise the sector and permit for an Egina, for example to berth in the Lagos harbour. This is what we seek to do to expand our blue economy to provide a level playing field that allows every player to choose and operate in the manner that suits them, having proper recognition for the statutory roles of the agencies that govern them and operate in the maritime industry.