The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) have intervened in the alleged arbitrary increase in terminal charges by Port Harcourt port-based terminal operator; Port and Terminal Operators Limited.
The terminal operator was told at a meeting which held in Lagos that it’s arbitrary increase of charges without consultation with its landlord, the NPA and the Port Economic Regulator, NSC ran afoul of the lease agreement and government regulations.
This tripartite meeting between NPA, NSC and PTOL took place at the head office of the NSC in Apapa, Lagos.
The meeting was convened by the Acting Executive Secretary of the NSC, Ms. Ifeoma Ezedinma who said such acts will attract sanctions as the Shippers’ Council, through public notices, visits and correspondences is always advising regulated service providers to obey the law.
Citing Clause 5:5 of the lease agreement between NPA and PTOL, Mrs. Ugo Madubuike, NPA’s General Manager (Monitoring and Regulatory Service) said the increase in charges was in contradiction of the Contractual Agreement. Clause 5:5 states “The lessee shall not make any increase in the operation rate unless agreed to in writing by the parties and any required persons or governmental authority has been obtained”.
The NSC and NPA advised PTOL to present their proposed increases for negotiation through official channels as soon as possible.
PTOL’s General Manager Macpherson Nwaukoni, apologized for the oversight while explaining that the action was taken due to losses the company has incurred in the course of operations. These losses, according to him occurred as a result of the import ban on certain items resulting in the company’s inability to meet its obligation to the Lessor, particularly the rental debt they owe to NPA. He also said the comparison of their rates with other terminals revealed that their own charges are much lower. All these, he said, made operations difficult leading them to increase their tariffs by 15% to 30%.
He appealed for leniency, explaining that PTOL had not increased charges in 16 years and was currently running at a loss.
The Director, Legal Services Department of NSC Mr. Tahir Idris advised PTOL to obtain documents on NSC’s legal framework in order to acquaint itself with the regulatory procedures of tariff increase and to also be guided to ensure they follow right protocol.
The Director, Consumer Affairs, Chief Cajetan Agu insisted that they revert back to their old rates until due process is followed.
He stressed that their action contravened the contracts they signed upon the lease, and as such they violated the Lessor contract and NSC Act.