Following the recent Federal Government’s policy clarification on the ports industry aimed at eliminating monopoly in oil and gas logistics, Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL) has withdrawn its legal suit against the Federal Government of Nigeria however, INTELS has demanded N10million as damages from LADOL.
LADOL had taken up legal actions against the Federal Government when the former President Goodluck Jonathan issued a directive in April 2015 that all oil and gas cargoes must go to the three Eastern ports of Onne, Calabar and Warri, which are controlled by INTELS.
However, LADOL’s court injunction was to restrain the Federal Government from the implementation of the monopolistic directive and it is surprising that INTELS are demanding damages for a case that wasn’t constituted against them.
Professor Fidelis Oditah, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and legal counsel to LADOL, revealed this in a press conference yesterday.
Noting that the withdrawal application is scheduled for argument at the Federal High Court in Lagos, on June 6th, 2017, Prof Oditah said “when the issue of withdrawal first came up in court last week, counsel to INTELS did not oppose the move but rather asked for the dismissal of the case and an award of N10 million cost to INTELS.”
“Of course, their request was laughable as they were not joined in the originating suit, but rather wangled themselves in. We did not sue them, they asked to be joined and the court obliged them, so how then could we pay them any form of cost? On the contrary, they (INTELS) should be paying our costs because they were the direct beneficiary of the obnoxious monopoly in the nation’s oil and gas industry” he added.
Meanwhile, he urged government to ensure that the new development gets the legislation in order to avoid what he described as the unwarranted policy somersault the issue had attracted.
Prof. Oditah described this new directive by the Federal Government as one that would engender competition in the port sector with the ultimate goal of growing the nation’s economy.
Oditah who is also a Queens Counsel (QC), noted that the fresh directive which now accords stakeholders a level-playing ground, is in tandem with the current administration’s reform initiatives aimed at encouraging Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) as well as boosting local participation in the oil and gas industry.
Recall that on May 10, 2017, the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), had conveyed its recent position in a letter titled: “Conveyance of presidential Approval – Re: Reports on Concessioned terminals in the Ports”.
The letter signed by Professor Idris Abubakar, Executive Director, Engineering and Technical Services of NPA, had stated amongst others, “FGN remains guided by the general global practice in the designation of Terminal/ Port operations into three broad categorization of bulk cargo, container cargo and multi-purpose cargo.
“Accordingly, the FGN rejects the categorization of oil and gas multipurpose cargo terminal as this is alien to the relevant concession agreement and inconsistent with global shipping practices”.
The letter further added, “FGN reaffirms past presidential directives that all importers are free to choose any terminal or port for the discharge of their cargoes, subject to the presence of all requisite regulatory agencies at such ports as required by extant regulations and in line with its policy of promoting competition and value for money. Consequently, any policy that designates certain ports by cargo types is hereby cancelled”.
Highlighting the various benefits of the policy clarification Oditah said: “This policy clarification fits into the reform initiatives of the FGN designed to reposition Nigeria, open it for business and welcome all investors, domestic and foreign, to do business in an open, competitive, transparent and rewarding business environment.
“This will no doubt increase private investment in building port infrastructure along our vast coastal belt, especially in investment in Western Ports and in oil and gas facilities in the West particularly Lagos, which would enhance job creation and GDP growth. The policy clarification will ensure the diversification of port infrastructure rather than the concentration of risk in the restive Niger Delta”.
He added that, the policy clarification would lead to noticeable increase in private investment in port infrastructure, increase local economy, create hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, increase government revenue and boost our GDP.
In a related development the Chief Operating Officer of the Ecomarine Terminals, Mr. Dayo Balogun has commended the astute leadership of the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman for the courage to kick against the monopoly INTELS were trying to establish.
Mr. Balogun lamented that previous Managing Directors of the NPA had turned a blind-eye to INTELS ploy to monopolize the oil and gas sector.
“What the Managing Director of NPA has done isn’t a small feat. It requires courage and shows her willingness to create a level-playing field for all port concessionaires. Other Managing Directors of the NPA were too scared to discuss the issue talk less of taking a stand; however this new directive is germane to the growth of the nation’s port sector” Balogun told MMS Plus.
By Kenneth Jukpor