NIMASA claims NLNG owes it a cumulative amount of about $158 million.
The Senate on Tuesday waded into the two-month long feud over alleged refusal of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to meet its tax obligations to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). The amount is put at about $158 million (about N24.7billion).
The maritime agency triggered a major trade dispute with the NLNG on May 3 by blocking access to the nation’s major loading terminals for gas export at Bonny Island; after it claimed the gas company failed to meet its demands on several occasions to pay appropriate taxes and levies.
Maritime industry sources said Nigeria has been losing an average of $22 million (N3.5 billion) daily since the blockade; a development the senate committee on marine transport has expressed concern about and wants immediate resolution of.
The NLNG has defended its refusal to pay the money saying its action was guided by the provisions of the Nigeria LNG (Fiscal Incentives, Guarantees and Assurances) Act, which exempts it from such levies and charges.
NLNG General Manager, External Relations, Kudo Eresia-Eke, said at the beginning of the dispute that the protracted disagreement with NIMASA was as a result of the perceived conflict in the provisions of the Act and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act, Merchant Shipping Act and Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, which stipulates that NIMASA levies were applicable to all companies doing business within Nigeria’s territorial waters, including the NLNG.
Following President Goodluck Jonathan’s directive that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, wade into the rift, an understanding was reached between the two bodies for NLNG to undertake the liquidation of the debt in installments.
Though the gas company paid the first tranche of $20 million in compliance with the truce, it said it was doing so under protest, while seeking judicial interpretation to clarify the legality or otherwise of the levies.
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos, said on Tuesday that the ruling on the lingering dispute between the two government agencies would be delivered on July 12.
But, the court, in rejecting the application of the defendant, reiterated its order on Monday for NIMASA to end the blockade on NLNG, saying the order barring NIMASA and Global West from interfering in the operations of LNG stays.
Global West, a private security company, is believed to be owned by a former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpumopolo, popularly called “Tompolo,” and is contracted by NIMASA.
Tompolo is one of several ex-militant commanders in the Niger Delta region who were awarded hefty security contracts under the government’s amnesty programme in 2009 to end attacks on oil facilities in the region.
NLNG is claiming $37 million damages against the defendants jointly and severally over the blockade of its vessels.
The Senate Committee, in seeking ways out of the crisis, urged the two agencies to resolve the issue in the interest of Nigerians.
NIMASA claims NLNG is cumulatively owing $158 million (N25.2 billion) in taxes, including the 3 per cent gross levy on freight (in-bound and out-bound) cargo ships, 2 per cent surcharge on carbortage levy, and sea protection levy charged on all foreign flagged ships calling at the nation’s ports facilities.
At an interactive session with stakeholders in the marine transport sector on Tuesday, the National Assembly, including members of the newly inaugurated boards of the parastatals under the sector, queried why the NLNG as a corporate body owned jointly by the Federal Government and some international oil companies would not meet its tax obligations.
Other stakeholders, who attended the interactive meeting, included the Nigerian Ports Authority, Shippers Council, Maritime Authority of Nigeria, and officials of the supervising ministry of transport.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...