- Ship Owners Urge FG To Stop Collection Of Sea Protection Levy
The integrity of the office of the Vice President, currently occupied by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has been subjected to serious questions over its alleged dealings with traders at the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex (LITFC), with the latest being the claim by the incumbent President of Balogun Business Association (BBA), Mr. Ernest Odunukwe that the group had paid N30 billion to Osinbajo’s office in seven years through the defunct Trade Fair Management Board.
Odunukwe made the claims in his re-election campaign speeches and printed materials for the leadership election that took place last week in Lagos. But he did not give a breakdown of the figure on what amount constitute their lease fees and the total sum raised at intervals to settle and instigate the Vice President, who is the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) against making a proper handover of the facility to the concessionaire as stated in the concession agreement.
Information at the disposal of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) shows that over N8billion have been paid to the VP office through an illegally constituted Trade Fair Management Board headed by the Executive Director, Mrs. Lucy Ajayi, who was appointed into office by Osinbajo when President Mohammadu Buhari was in London on sick leave.
This amount was paid by the traders’ associations in LITFC as lease fees in the last seven years when Aulic Nigeria Limited is the substantive concessionaire, who should be paid to by the virtue of concession agreement with the Federal Government.
The associations are: BBA, Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association(ASPAMDA), Article traders, Mandilas United Traders Association(MUTA), among others.
MMS Plus gathered that the EFCC had arraigned members of the trade fair management board in court over 20 count charges of criminality, embezzlement and diversion of government funds after a series of investigation. But in a surprise move, the former Attorney General of the Federation(AGF)Mohammed Bello Adoke declared a fiat stopping the prosecution of the accused who are serving members of the board said to have taken possession of the trade fair complex recently.
According to a lawyer in the case, “Adoke entered a nolle prosecute, when a case has been established, meaning that the government can restart the case again, especially for the government that is said to be fighting corruption, it should have been concluded. That is not the case here. Rather, the Professor of law in the person of Yemi Osinbajo is being used to truncate the run of justice because of money.
“The Bureau of Public Enterprises(BPE) under Ms. Bola Onagoruwa had officially asked the Ministry of Trade and Investment to direct the management board to write the traders directing them to pay all obligation to the government through the concessionaire, Aulic Nigeria Limited. It was not done.
On the claim by the Osinbajo- appointed Executive Director that Aulic is owing the Federal Government N6bilion lease fees, the lawyer said: “How can Aulic be owing N6 billion in seven years with the control of only 25 percent of the concessioned areas when the entire concessioned area attracts the total concession fees of N40billion for 30 years concession period? Beside, government has not fully handed over the complex to Aulic seven years after the concession agreement was sealed, 75 percent of the entire expanse of facility captured in the concession agreement has been excized leaving Aulic with 25 percent only. The claim by Mrs. Ajayi is baseless. In the documents they filled in court, they claimed N3billion, on the pages of Newspapers, they claimed N6billion, at the EFCC, they claimed N5billion. So, which of the claims is authentic? It simply means they are spurious!
“At several meetings, with government functionaries it was agreed that a new cost be given to Aulic for payment based on development but no agency or ministry or the NCP has done that.
“The billions they collect from traders is beclouding their sense of reasoning and justice. Otherwise, why will the AGF stop the prosecution of established criminals by the EFCC? Why would Osinbajo appoint her sister as an ED into a defunct board and give it life to truncate an established concessioned business done under a competitive bid? The EFCC officials who investigated the allegations churned out by the people the VP is using said they were under instruction from the VP office to freeze the Aulic account, take possession of the facility and detain the concessionaire.
“They have seen that none of the allegations hold water. Aulic has not breached any of the agreement clauses and in event of breach, the agreement has provision for notification and dispute resolutions but none was followed in this case because Osinbajo has an interest he is projecting. This is a government that is fighting corruption and wants investors yet can’t keep a simple business agreement. What is the guarantee that other investors’ investments are protected tomorrow?”
According to Mrs. Ajayi at a press briefing last week, the Federal Government, through the NCP has sacked the concessionaire in charge of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex over the non-remittance of lease fees totalling N6bn.
As stated in the termination letter issued by the NCP, the concessionaire, Aulic Nigeria Limited, had breached the agreement it signed in 2007 with the Federal Government.
According to the letter, the illegalities perpetrated over the years by the concessionaire vary from the non-remittance of the lease fees to the alleged eviction of the management board from the administrative building, among others.
The letter stated that the NCP terminated the concession agreement on August 23, but took some time to implement the decision due to logistics and security reasons.
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had on November 20, issued a directive that the concessionaire be evicted from the complex and this was smoothly carried out.
According to the termination letter, the management board, headed by the Executive Director, Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, Mrs. Lucy Ajayi, was directed to take possession of the complex from the concessionaire.
In another development, following the economic hardship sweeping all sectors in the nation, Nigerian ship owners have urged the Federal Government to stop the collection of Sea Protection Levy which affects all commercially-operating vessels of 100 gross tonnage and above in Nigerians waters and on oil installations and pipelines.
The President of Nigeria Indigenous Ship Owners Association (NISA) Mr. Aminu Umar made this call in an exclusive chat with MMS Plus newspaper; highlighting this levy collected by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as one of the frivolous charges threatening the business of ship owners in the country.
Aminu lamented that ship owners didn’t know what this Sea Protection levy is used for. “Every ship has to make this payment but there is no explanation for this. NIMASA has to stop it. The Nigerian Navy has the core mandate to protect the seas and there shouldn’t be charges for this.”
“The Navy has the statutory responsibility to protect the seas and the NIMASA shouldn’t place charges for that. The Marine Police is also there to aid the Nigerian Navy in sea protection. There is no justification for the ship owner to be subjected to such charges” he queried.
Recall that this Sea Protection Levy was introduced on June 8th, 2012, through a NIMASA directive signed by the former NIMASA Director General, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi.
The levy include the following: $1.25 per gross tonnage on vessels of 100 to 1000 gross tonnage, $1.00 per gross tonnage for ships of 1,001 to 10,000 gross tonnage, $0.75 per gross tonnage for ships of 10,001 to 100,000 gross tonnage, and $0.50 per tonnage for vessels of 100,001 gross tonnage and above.
For Nigerian-registered ships, the rate of the Marine Environment (Sea Protection) Levy is as follows: N500.00 per gross tonnage for ships of 100 to 1000 gross tonnage, N 350. 00 per gross tonnage for vessels of 1,001 to 10,000 gross tonnage, N300.00 per gross tonnage for vessels of 10,001 to 100,000 gross tonnage and N250.00 per gross tonnage for ships from 100.00 I gross tonnage and above.
The regulation further stated: “The rate of levy payable by an offshore installation and oil pipeline shall be (a) in ‘the case of an offshore oil installation that is producing. Processing, storing, or transferring oil, including buoys used for the loading and/or receiving of oil, NI5,000,000.00 per annum:
“(b) in the case of an offshore oil installation used or constructed for the purposes of exploring for oil, N 10,000,000.00 (ten million naira) for each oil well drilled by that installation;
“(c) In the case of an oil pipeline, N1,500.00 per cubic metre of pipeline volume from the high water mark to the termination point offshore.”
The levy applies to vessels which are more than 24metres in length and have onboard more than 10 tonnes of oil in bulk as fuel or cargo.
Meanwhile, a former Director at NIMASA who is also a ship owner, Engr. Oliver Ogbuagu has opined that foreign shippers suffer most from the Sea Protection levy as well as the Extra War Risk charges in the country.
“Ship Protection Levy is an instrument of NIMASA and essentially it is targeted at ships coming from outside the country. The local ship owners are also making these payments but they pay in naira. They don’t pay as much as the foreign vessels coming into Nigeria.”
“Most Nigerian ship owners only operate Cabotage vessels that pay minimal charges as Sea Protection Levy and they don’t pay the Extra War Risk charges. I see no reason why an indigenous operator should be complaining about these charges”, Ogbuagu stated.
However, Ogbuagu failed to realize that the final cost of products and services in the country are grossly affected by these charges, he admonished NIMASA to do a survey on these complaints.
The Head of Corporate Communications at NIMASA, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi was reached to react to these issues but he was yet to reply his calls or text messages as at press time.
NIMASA is yet to explain what it uses the revenue generated from the Sea Protection Levy for, as well as its plans to ensure that Nigeria leaves the war risk zone of international insurance companies and the myriad of fiscal challenges that comes with the position.
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