The management of Intels Nigeria Limited (INL) has said that contrary to speculations and unproven allegations, the company is not owing the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGFZA).
INL also said its operations are not in violation of the OGFZA Act.
INL said the allegations are “false and malicious” and are injurious to the company’s business interest.
The company said there have been exchange of correspondences, meetings and discussions held between it and OGFZA regarding various demand notices issued by OGFZA as well as other measures taken by OGFZA affecting INL’s status and operations in the Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone.
INL said OGFZA has refused to release its licence for 2017 on the ground that it had to pay all charges and fees demanded by the agency notwithstanding that it has paid in full the renewal fee for the licence.
“The other fees in question relate to new free zone tariffs on land charges imposed by the Free Zone (Tariffs & Other Charges) Order gazetted in 2015 but being implemented from 2017. INL has raised some issues concerning the land charges with the result that the claim by the OGFZA on INL for those charges are presently being disputed,” INL stated
The company said it is not liable to pay the demanded Lease/Sublease Charge being introduced by OGFZA, and insists that since the charge is in dispute, the charges are not due, within the meaning of Regulation 35(1)(b).
“INL asserts that the premises it occupies in the ports were granted by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which is the statutory/legal owner of the land on which the company’s operation is situate. OGFZA has no legal authority to administer or manage land vested in the NPA in any manner whatsoever. OGFZA cannot levy any charges over NPA land, and not having any interest over the land, it cannot register third party interests or transactions over the land.
“In tacit recognition of NPA’s overriding right over the land, please note that Regulation 49 (1& 2) of the Oil & Gas Free Zone Regulations 2003 states thus:
(1) Without prejudice to the provisions of the Land Use Act, any land under the control or management of the Nigerian Ports Authority shall be acquired, leased or transferred to an investor by the Nigerian Ports Authority.
(2) An investor shall take lease from the Nigerian Ports Authority, in respect of any land situate in the Free Zone, but within the Ports Area and owned by the Nigerian Ports Authority, on the terms and conditions prescribed by the Nigerian Ports Authority.
“Clearly therefore, the terms and conditions of grant of every proprietary interest over NPA land situate in the Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone, is entirely the legal responsibility of NPA.
“To further underscore the fact that the administrative authority of OGFZA does not cover land owned by NPA, please note that subsection 3 of Regulation 49 states thus: An investor shall take lease from the Authority (OGFZA), in respect of any land outside the control or management of the Nigerian Ports Authority but situate within the Free Zone.
“From the above, it is therefore clear in Law, that the management and control of Intels Land as “NPA’s tenant” within the land in the ports is absolutely the preserve of NPA. Accordingly, there is no valid legal basis for OGFZA to impose tariff of any kind on Lessees of NPA premises.
“In addition to the above, please note that that S. 14 of the Free Zone (Tariffs & Other Charges) Order 2015 expressly exempts Concessionaires from OGFZA’s charges by providing that the tariffs are “applicable to individual licensee not concessionaire”. Clearly therefore, Intels being a Concessionaire is not liable to the land registration charge imposed by OGFZA in respect of any land it occupies in any location,” INL stated.
According to the company, OGFZA’s position on the alleged debt is misconceived and ill-advised.
INL said OGFZA is under obligation to renew its free zone license because it has paid the prescribed free zone license fees for the 2017 Operating License after filing the 2016 annual return along with other formalities.
“The land charges which is being disputed by INL are certainly not due until the dispute is resolved. Thus, Intels is entitled to the grant and release of its 2017 Free Zone License.
“OGFZA’s threat to cancel all existing expatriate visas can only be actuated by an unbridled desire to perpetrate mischief and malice against INL,” the company added.