INTELS AND NPA’S BATTLE OF WITS
Salisu Ahmed highlights areas of dispute between INTELS and Nigerian Ports Authority
Nigeria is watching the drama unfolding between Integrated Logistics Services (INTELS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the federal government. Over the past couple of years, NPA has taken a firmer and more independent stance with INTELS. Among other things, NPA started to question the appropriateness of some actions of INTELS such as its refusal to pay into the government of Nigeria’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the many years delays, or even outright refusals, to pay fees to the government worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Further, NPA questioned whether the government was always getting adequate value from its relations with INTELS. A case in point being the Phase 4B construction contract in Onne Port, Rivers State, that NPA had previously awarded to INTELS and which now looks like a hugely expensive white elephant project for which NPA is picking up the bill.
As expected, INTELS has not been happy with NPA’s more critical and robust approach towards the company, prompting INTELS to try to persuade the federal government that it is the innocent and hapless victim of NPA. Indeed, INTELS is trying to have the federal government intervene in ongoing court cases.
In a letter written by INTELS lawyer, Mike N. Epelle to the Attorney-General, requested the Attorney General to “intervene” in the disputes between NPA and INTELS and “prevail” on NPA to relent and give up in all its disputes with INTELS.
How will the Attorney-General respond to such a highly unusual request from INTELS who is asking for special treatment and arbitrary intervention in ongoing court cases that INTELS itself had initiated but of which it did not like the outcomes?
The following cases were brought up in INTELS letter and it will be interesting to see if the government decides to go against what appears NPA’s very reasonable positions?
NPA Pilotage contract: INTELS contract expired in August 2020 and NPA decided to initiate a tender to get the highest possible value from a new contract, in line with public procurement practices. INTELS decided to sue NPA and block anyone else from getting the contract through INTELS’ lawyers extensive use of “injunctions”. Will the government now overrule NPA’s proper use of public procurement rules and hand the contract to INTELS without a tender?
Two, Berths 9-11 and 90 hectares of land, Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne:
INTELS is also protesting NPA’s decision to introduce new operators in the INTELS stronghold of Onne Port. NPA had withdrawn INTELS’ rights to use berths 9-11 and 90 hectares of land since INTELS had not used the berths since 2013 and had not developed any parts of the 90 hectares of yard and were years behind on lease payments. So NPA made the sensible decision to lease the berths out to an operator (in this case ICTSI, a global port operator with more than 30 terminals across the world) who actually wanted to use them. ICTSI has since then invested USD 40 million, generated 300 jobs and thousands of tons of cargo. Will the federal government now overrule NPA and kick out a new investor who has invested millions of dollars and who, contrary to INTELS, actually pays its lease fees on time?
Three, EFCC review of INTELS dues to NPA: INTELS is protesting “unwarranted” EFCC “debt collection” from NPA. Again, it seems difficult to imagine that the Attorney General would object to the work of EFCC which just recently, on June 2021, resulted in INTELS paying more than USD 100 million in outstanding remittances to NPA. Ahmed wrote from Port Harcourt
INTELS HAS NOT BEEN HAPPY WITH NPA’S MORE CRITICAL AND ROBUST APPROACH TOWARDS THE COMPANY, PROMPTING INTELS TO TRY TO PERSUADE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT IT IS THE INNOCENT AND HAPLESS VICTIM OF NPA