There appears to be no end in sight to the dispute between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Intels Nigeria Limited (Intels), as the NPA has 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.
Speaking yesterday during an interview with CNBC Africa, the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, said Intels’ notice of termination would stand if the company fails to settle its debt.
“I am giving Intels a possible two-week window to provide payment, two weeks from now, following which the notice of termination will not be withdrawn,” she said.
“One of the issues we have had with Intels is their non-compliance with the TSA. As you are aware, the Nigerian government instituted the treasury single account which is the account that all revenues of government need to be paid into.
“Intels collects revenue on behalf of the Nigeria Ports Authority and had refused to comply with TSA and kept retaining those revenues in their coffers.
“So we insisted that they must comply, no company is above the laws of the country and we went through the whole process,” she was quoted to have said in the interview.
She spoke further on what caused the disagreement between the maritime agency and the logistics firm, accusing the company of failing to comply with the ground rules.
“I think it’s important for all entities operating in an environment to adhere to the rules and regulations,” she said.
“What we seek to ensure is with you have a level playing field and you must comply to regulations. At no point was Nigeria Ports Authority not going to remit their own portion of the revenues.
“All other third-party agreements that we have in the Nigerian Ports Authority have a similar structure, so why should Intels feel it can operate outside of the law? The other companies are complying, why don’t you comply?”
In September, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had asked the NPA to void the boats’ pilotage agreement it had with Intels.
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 former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku has since sold down most of his interest in the company to the former Lagos State governor, Chief Bola Tinubu.
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.
However, Intels last year 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.
On the basis of the letter, Intels said it was awaiting the AGF’s green light and would like an amicable resolution of the dispute.