Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman has stated that the agency’s recent actions against Intels Nigeria Limited, co-owned by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not political.
NPA last month handed a two-week ultimatum to the company to remit an outstanding $48 million that ought to have been paid into the agency’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) in 2017.
Intels, a logistics and facilities services provider in the maritime and oil and gas sectors, was co-founded by Gabriele Volpi, an Italian national and Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku has since sold down most of his interest in the company to the former Lagos State governor and APC national leader Bola Tinubu.
Speaking on Sam Omatseye’s Platform on TVC, Usman insisted there was nothing political about asking Intel to comply with the TSA.
She said, “The issue with Intel is attributable to non – compliance with country’s Single Account as you are aware of TSA whereby all agencies of government are required to pay their revenues into this account.
“Nigeria Port Authority had entered into this agreement whereby monies were collected by third parties, that was pre-TSA. So upon introduction of TSA, we asked everyone to comply but Intel was not willing to comply to collection of those revenues through TSA.
“To say it is political is a complete distraction from the core contents of what it is. The issue of compliance with TSA actually started before this administration came in.
“Letters were written to Intel pre-Buhari administration when we said clearly you need to comply as you are aware the last administration had commenced TSA compliance. It had started it and we proceeded to do it continuously.
“And I would like to say that we spent a year discussing with Intel, asking them to comply and they refused to comply for over a year.
“So I couldn’t understand how a private company operating in Nigeria would disregard our constitution, disregard our policies and rules and try to distract us by making it political.
“There is nothing political about asking you to comply, there is nothing political about you doing what is the statutory position in the country you are operating in.
“So I’ll always say that Intel tried to distract us by making it political. Other companies that are complying, are they not operating? So maybe you are the one that are trying to politicise it by always operating outside of the law using your influence.
“We have a level playing field for everybody. The rules apply to everyone. You must comply to what it is the rule even if you are friend of the government as it were, you must comply. You can’t operate outside of the law. I think they.
“I think they realized that because they have apologized and they complied but it needs not get to termination, that’s is what I mean. People need to be responsible as a corporate entity to comply with the laws of the land”.
Last year, Nigerian government directed the NPA to terminate the boats pilotage monitoring and supervision agreement that the agency has with Intels Nigeria Limited.
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN), in a letter dated September 27, 2017, said the agreement, which has allowed Intels to receive revenue on behalf of NPA for 17 years, violates the Nigerian Constitution, in view of the implementation of the TSA.
Malami said the agreement, which allowed Intels to receive revenue on behalf of NPA for 17 years, violates Sections 80(1) and 162(1) and (10) of the constitution.
The AGF wondered if the management of the NPA and Intels did not take cognisance of the relevant provisions when negotiating the agreement in 2010.
But Intels insisted that it had settled the dispute with NPA and was awaiting the AGF’s clearance.
The firm admitted the infractions and apologised for its initial rejection of the regulator’s directive on the TSA, stating its readiness to comply.
In its apology, dated October 25, 2017, Intels, through one of its directors, Silvano Bellinato, suggested that an agreement that would ensure “mutual business satisfaction” be signed between the company and NPA.
Bellinato also sought assurances that Intels’ share of collected revenues would always be remitted to it in good time after the TSA account with the CBN is credited.