- Ex-Ministers, BPE, NPA involved
- Confession of a retired Director
- Operators query INTELs’ power to flout presidential directive
More facts have emerged on how the controversial oil and gas cargo monopoly consummated in favour of the Integrated Logistics Services (INTELs) Nigeria Limited, among other port concessionaires was conceived and hatched.
This seed of commercial attrition sown since 2008, has lately taken a political dimension, creating a source of daily bread for lawyers and media jobbers as the jobs and integrity of many beneficiaries are suffering pains and stigma.
While a reliable source and a victim of the monopoly saga revealed to MMS Plus in an interview how it all started and the personalities involved, experts and operators in the maritime industry have risen against INTELS for dragging the Presidency to court and flouting the Presidential directive which nullified the monopoly order earlier gotten.
Under President Goodluck Jonathan, INTELS had dominated the business of oil and gas logistics services, claiming to have an exclusive concession over the subsector. Most cargoes in the sector were directed to its terminals for discharge by government agencies.
Consequently, many other operators who got concession at the port complained of what they called INTELS’ monopoly of the business. The agitation was so serious that on assumption of duty in September, last year, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman promised to institute a policy reform that would end the monopoly.
Subsequently, a policy reform committee whose recommendations were approved by the President was set up. The presidential approval dated 21st April, 2017 stated in part: “FGN remains guided by the general global practice in the designation of Terminal/Ports operations into three broad categorization of bulk cargo, container cargo and multipurpose cargo. Accordingly, the FGN rejects the categorization of oil and gas multipurpose cargo terminal, as this is alien to the relevant concession agreements and inconsistent with global shipping practices .
“ The non-designation of the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone as an ‘Oil and Gas Multi-purpose Cargo Terminal’ does not in any way legally obstruct or compromise the operations of the Free Zone as an Oil and Gas Free Zone, but rather, it merely indicates that all cargo including oil and gas can be discharged at the terminal”, the letter stated further.
This directive was aimed at enhancing operational efficiency at the ports by removing monopoly and respecting the concession agreement.
Consequently, INTELS got an interim order from the Abuja Federal High Court compelling NPA to hold on to its proposed plan on the de-categorisation of terminals at the nation’s seaports.
According to our source in a mystery interview, “Can you imagine a foreign company flouting presidential directive! Can they do that in their country? That is the level we have brought ourselves to. I am really pissed! A president of a country gave a directive and they are going to court to challenge it. They can’t try this with Olusegun Obasanjo as President, he will shut them down completely. We need foreign investors but not investors that will come and kill the economy. We don’t want that.
“I am surprised that some people can sell their conscience for peanuts and kill the system. Somebody like the former Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar and former Executive Director, Marine and Operations of NPA, Engr. David Omonibeke, among others, disappointed us.” The source noted.
The narration continued: “It is so annoying! If INTELS could take the Federal Government to court, who is INTELS? Where are they coming from? Can they do that in their country? Useless Italians! They claim they collect dues for NPA. Obasanjo wanted to throw them out of Nigeria, completely. Are they still in Angola? They used to be in Angola. Angola has thrown them out. They tried to penetrate Ghana, Ghana refused their coming in. Is only in Nigeria they can exhibit rubbish and go scot- free. When Obasanjo was the President, even till the late president Umaru Yar’Adu’s time, they were doing collection in the East and there was another competitor in the West. As soon as those people left, the then NPA’s management went and engaged INTELS for the East and West. And when they collect these money they will not remit them to NPA. They will invest them in their business, and claim interest and amortization, yet people were comfortable with it.”
The revelation, “The genesis of this oil and gas cargo exclusivity started with the former Director of Transport in Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Allwell Ibe, now retired. Do I know how much he was paid to sell his conscience! After the port concession in 2006, everybody was working according to the concession agreement. In 2008 Mr. Ibe went and did his personal terminal marking and mapping, which originally was done by NPA, not BPE. He did it on his own, not even to the knowledge of the Director-General of BPE then, Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa. He did it on his own and created this problem till date. He must be brought to book, I am happy that the matter is in court now. Ibe will account for his deed.
“When this thing started I called him, because we were all on the concession team at that time. I said, “Look at the letter they said you signed; did you sign it?” He said he did not sign any letter. And I said, “The thing is becoming a court issue, but he said when he gets to court he will deny that he did not sign any letter”. I just believed him, thinking that as usual that they had forged his signature until the former Managing Director of NPA, Mallam Habib Abdullahi took up the matter. At that point BPE felt they would be implicated and called Ibe who had gone on retirement for explanation. It was at this point that Ibe accepted that he signed the letter. At this point, they started looking for soft-landing for him by writing to INTELs that “the letter was without prejudice to the concession agreement.”
“And when I saw the letter, I asked them, “if it is without prejudice to the concession agreement, why did you have to issue it in the first place? What is it meant to do?” It was to cause confusion! He will account for his deeds. Ibe is retired but the evil he did is still blowing hot. Ibe did that thing without the knowledge of anybody at BPE because it was not even in their files. I know a number of people that asked them question on how they came about the letter but they said it was not in their file. I don’t know what they told Ibe that made him to own up. He had been denying. It was later discovered that the reason he signed the letter was because Obasanjo gave a directive that importers of such cargo (oil and gas) can go to any port of their choice.
“In international trade the importer has freedom of choices because it is business and as such an importer wants where will be beneficial to him. When Obasanjo left, the then Minister of Transport (Maritime), Mr. John Okechukwu Emeka, resorted to giving INTELs monopoly to oil and gas cargoes. Upon hearing this, the late President Yar’Adua gave him a query, which he responded to but in trying to cover up himself, that was when they generated that letter which Ibe of BPE signed. Even at that defense, he left a loophole begging to be filled. His response to the query was dated 9th but the controversial letter was dated 10th. Yes, he responded to the query on July 9th and the letter was dated July 10th. He attached the letter and submitted. God will visit vengeance on all of them.
“I can’t still imagine an Italian taking the President to court over a directive he gave to improve the economy of the nation.” The wondered again.
Meanwhile, some NPA management members of staff have condemned INTELs’ legal action the Federal Government, saying there was need for government to imbibe the act of ignoring some court orders in the interest of the nation, especially when such court actions are meant to derail its programmes.