Reps to probe $446.4m shipping firms’ demurrage on imported petrol

The House of Representatives on Thursday ordered an investigation into the $446.4 million that the Federal Government allegedly paid to 16 foreign shipping companies in the last three months as demurrage on imported petrol.

The 16 vessels are said to have been held in the nation’s territorial waters by the Nigerian Navy and restrained from discharging their contents until “signals” are received from Abuja.

A member of the House from Lagos State, Mr. Yaqub Bush-Alebiosu, who brought up the issue under matters of urgent public importance, informed the House that on a daily basis, the government paid $4.8m as demurrage to the owners of the vessels in the last three months.

He said the total amount said to have been paid out so far stood at $446.4 million.

The lawmaker said the vessels carried petroleum products meant to be used in the country, adding that keeping the vessels on the seas could lead to fuel scarcity soon.

“A reliable source at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation told me on the condition of anonymity that if this matter is not resolved soonest, the country will face fuel scarcity. The source said the fuel being used in the country now is the last from our reserve,” Bush-Alebiosu added.

The lawmaker said the government was also losing revenue by keeping the vessels on the high seas.

He said, “In the last three months, $4.8 million is paid daily to these foreign vessels as demurrage. Besides being a loss of revenue to the government, it can lead to fuel scarcity if these vessels are not allowed to discharge their products.

“The Navy people say they are waiting for signals from Abuja before the vessels can discharge fuel.”

The Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, who presided over the session, referred the issue to the Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources/Public Accounts/Navy for investigation within two weeks.

Meanwhile, the report on the controversial Oil Prospecting Licence 245 deal involving Malabu Oil was for the third time not considered by the House on Thursday.

Many members claimed not to have copies of the report of the House committee’s investigation into the matter.

A member from Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Robinson Uwak, opposed the report on the grounds that the ad hoc committee, which investigated the transaction, went beyond its brief.

He urged the House to reject the report and direct the committee to conduct the investigation afresh, but he was overruled.

The Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, was later directed to make more copies of the report available to members preparatory to its consideration next Tuesday.

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