EXCLUSIVE! NIMASA floors NLNG in levy war

NIMASA floors NLNG in levy war
… As MWUN re-states threat to shut ports, unless

Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory organ, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), may yet carry the day in its current spat over levies with the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively report.
There are strong indications that the Presidency, which is brokering peace between two of its warring critical agencies, may finally resolve the case in NIMASA’s favour.
Impeccable sources at the Presidency informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Mr Mohammed Adoke, has advised that NIMASA has an iron-cast case against the NLNG, and that the NLNG should, therefore, be compelled to commence paying the statutory levies, as demanded by NIMASA, including the accumulated arrears.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had earlier reported that prompt intervention by the Presidency, in the wake of the blockade it effected on access to the facilities of the NLNG at about 11.30am on May 3, 2013, over alleged unpaid levies, compelled NIMASA to lift the siege.

SHIPS & PORTS DAILYwas informed that relief came for the NLNG, following the intervention of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd); the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke; and Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, who jointly prevailed on NIMASA to lift the blockade which had cut off vital channels of gas exports and imports by the NLNG.
In a press statement issued that fateful Friday and signed by the Acting Director, Shipping Development, NIMASA, Capt. Warredi Enisuoh, the Agency had announced its decision to block gas imports and exports by the NLNG over alleged failure of the gas company to pay stipulated levies.
Enisuoh had been emphatic that the blockade of the NLNG vessels, effected by NIMASA through the platforms of its private security contractor, Global West Vessel Specialist, would not be lifted until the nation’s apex maritime regulatory was satisfied that the gas company had fulfilled its statutory obligations to Nigeria.
Not to be outdone in the media space, the NLNG had stated that Nigeria’s LNG exports have been delayed after the NIMASA blockade prevented ships from accessing the 22 million tonnes-a-year Bonny terminal from last Friday to Sunday.
“Nigeria LNG is a law-abiding corporate citizen and pays all its lawful dues and taxes … NLNG’s position had been that it was exempted from the levies,” the NLNG said in a statement.
NIMASA claimed that “this course of action had been forced on the agency by NLNG’s disregard and unwillingness to abide by the country’s maritime laws, especially sections of the NIMASA Act that mandate payment of levies based on gross freight on exports and imports.”

However, following a parley brokered by very worried members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), NIMASA made a volte-face, allowing the NLNG to continue with its operations.
It was learnt that at that particular peace meeting top government officials allegedly pilloried the NLNG for avoiding the payment of appropriate taxes to relevant agencies of the government.
Several other peace meetings, it was learnt, however, failed to effect an amicable resolutuion of matter between the duo.
It is expected that the Presidency’s decision will finally rest the feud.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has re-stated its earlier threat to close down the ports over what the union views as the NLNG’s alleged refusal to fulfill its statutory financial obligations to NIMASA.
The MWUN President-General, Comrade Tony Nted, in his speech at a rally organised by the union last Wednesday in Lagos, warned that, if nothing is done by the Federal Government to compel the NLNG to pay the statutory levies required by NIMASA on gross freight on imports and exports and the Cabotage Law, within the time-frame of its already issued 21-day ultimatum, the union will shut down the ports.
Nted said: “Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) said the Federal Government gave them 10 years time to operate. After the ten years has expired but they refuse to pay the percentages they are suppose to pay to NIMASA for its services, which is statutory! They’ve been dragging on about it. That is why, the other day, we gave 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to commit NLNG to ensure payment of all NIMASA statutory charges – 15 per cent levy and 2percent Cabotage. Once this is done, there’ll be peace but if this is not done, at the expiration of the 21 day notice we will close down the whole ports to draw the attention of the Federal Government. The Federal Government has to understand that people cannot come to Nigeria and begin to break the laws of the land with impunity!”
Nted appealed to the government to check the alleged excesses of multinational companies operating at the nation’s ports, as well as to empower NIMASA to firmly assert its authority as a regulatory agency of all ship operators on Nigeria’s coastal waters.
At the MWUN-organised rally, which held at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT), maritime workers massed to commend President Goodluck Jonathan for “empowering youths in the nation’s maritime industry.”
The MWUN boss said that the rally, which commenced with a prayer session, was to appreciate Jonathan’s interest in building capacity for the maritime industry, with the commitment of NIMASA, by sending abroad about 1,000 members of the union to undergo maritime training.

Nted said: “What we are doing today is not politically motivated. We are workers. We are not from any political organization! We just want to show solidarity to Mr. President for the good job he has done in the maritime industry. All of us here are living testimonies of what is happening today in the maritime industry. Before now, the Nigerian state had about sixteen fleet of vessels including the private ones but today none of them exists. We have no captain, no marine engineer, no naval architect…in some many things we are lagging behind. But today this president has taken the bold step by taking so many Nigerians from the maritime industry, the seafaring department to be specific, out of the country for these courses. They have sent them abroad for courses in naval architecture, marine engineering, to be a captain aboard vessels etc. By the time they come back it means that we are not going to Philippine to look for cheap labor because we have professionals that we can send out to work in other countries.
That is a plus to the maritime industry. We are saying thank you Mr. President and we are giving him a title, Comrade President Goodluck Jonathan of the maritime industry!”
The rally also had in attendance the NIMASA Director-General, Mr Ziakede Patrick Akbolokemi; Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, NIMASA, Barr. Calistus Obi Madubueze; and Executive Director, Finance and Administration, NIMASA, Mr. Haruna Baba Jauro.
Akpobolokemi, while addressing journalists on the sidelines of the rally arena, said that NIMASA had no role organising the event, and that the Agency was only there on invitation to support the maritime workers, who, according to him, are critical stakeholders in the industry and, therefore, cannot be ignored.
The NIMASA boss said: “The current management has not had any issues with the Maritime Workers’ Union. We sit to dialogue and we’ve made so much progress. These are critical stakeholders and, therefore, we cannot ignore their invitation. You know NIMASA, through the effort of Mr. President, is pumping billions of naira in training dockworkers, seafarers etc. And in a couple of years in the future, in Africa, we are going to be the greatest force to be reckoned with in terms of human capacity. And, if the human element is the most important aspect in what we are doing, why should we ignore such an invitation?”

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