The Nigerian Ports Authourity and Integrated Logistics Services face-off

Intels was co-founded by former Vice-President and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar; and an Italian businessman, Gabriel Volpi in the 1980s. It also has some silent shareholders.

The Onne Port Complex where INTELS is headquartered has been in existence for about 30 years.

Prior to the ongoing face between them, both the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) and Integrated Logistics Services (INTELS) enjoyed good business relationship.

The company had fought-off competitors from the oil and gas business. Starting from Brawal which it forced out in the early 2000, to the Lagos Deepsea Oil Logistics (LADOL) base in Lagos which engaged Intels fiercely in the attempt by the latter to enforce it monopoly of oil and gas cargo, it had always demonstrated its intolerance of opposition.

The current face-off between NPA and Intel is not the first, as it is normal in most business relationships.

First, it was about de-categorization of terminals. In this case, Intels accused NPA and indeed the Federal Government of breaching agreements and sabotaging its multi-billion dollar ports investments through de-categorization of terminals.

The Nigerian Ports Authority had in May conveyed to operators the approval of the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, to designate ports operations into three broad categories of bulk cargo, container cargo and multipurpose cargo.

The administration consequently reviewed the categorization of Onne Port, controlled by Intels before its policy review, as “Oil and Gas Multi-purpose Cargo Terminal”. By this, the government moved to make Onne Port open for all categories of cargoes.

The president’s approval also guaranteed that “all importers are free to choose any terminal or port for the discharge of their cargoes”, thereby effectively ending Intels monopoly.

But Intels has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the policy review, joining the federal government, Attorney-General of the Federation, NPA, Ministry of Transport and the Bureau of Public Enterprises as respondents.

In its suit filed on June 4, Intels said the review amounted to violation of an October 24, 2005 Lease Agreements in respect of the Warri New Terminal, Warri Old Terminal, Calabar Terminal B, Federal Lighter Terminal B (Onne) and Federal Ocean Terminal A (Onne).

The company told the court that by the 2005 Agreements, the NPA designated the concessioned ports in Onne, Calabar and Warri to deal with oil and gas related cargoes alone “in appreciation of the importance of oil industry to the national economy and proximity of oil wells” to the ports.

The latest dispute has to do with the federal government’s Treasury Single Account policy. Both parties have advanced reasons to buttress their positions. 

The boat pilotage agreement between the NPA and INTELS was signed in 2010 for a validity period of 10 years. Under the agreement, INTELS collects pilotage payments made by ship owners on behalf of the NPA and takes 28 percent of all revenue collected as commission.

At the beginning of the feud, INTELS had raised sentiments over the several jobs that it had created on account of executing the contract. But this sounds funny, why wouldn’t a company that made almost $353.066 million within seven years create jobs.

Following from the above, Intels also raised alarm that thousands of Nigerian workers will be laid-off if its contract is terminated. Countering that, the NPA has said that it would engage another firm to take over Intels contract, and that the new firm would engage Nigerians whom Intels may have laid-off.

We are also opposed to the refusal of Intels to subscribe to the TSA policy of the Government. Fact is, Intels is not the only company that is collecting revenue for the Federal Government, it will be wrong and unfair to want to be the only one that will collect revenue into an account that Government has no control of or access to.

 We think it is overbearing on the part of Intels to seek to hold on to Government’s revenue, deduct its commission and give what is left to its principal. This is a reversal of responsibility.

While not disputing that the fate that is currently befalling the company and which is not so different from what it suffered in 2003 when one if founders; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (then Vice President to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo) showed intention to upstage his boss.The Onnne expansive facilities were shutdown for quite a while, until Atiku backed dropped his ambition.

Truth is, Atiku who had at one time confessed that Intels is his most viable investments has always played into the hands of his political detractors.

Gladly, the senior partner in the ownership of Intels;   Mr Gabrielle Volpi had extended the olive branch. In a statement mid last week, he apologized to the Federal Government and promised that the company would abide by all that the Federal Government directed.

He also debunked earlier threat that the company would withdraw its interest in the multi-Billion Dollar Badagry deep sea port project.

Volpi’s submission should end the face-off, and we also think that the Federal Government should accept the Intels boss apology. If after this, NPA still grandstands then it will become obvious that the whole thing is only about politics and not business.