As the cold war between LADOL, Lagos and INTEL, Port Harcourt deepens, the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi has warned LADOL Integrated Free Zone Enterprise to henceforth maintain strict compliance with Presidential Directive that all oil and gas cargoes be handled at Onne, Warri and Calabar ports by INTELS.
Addressing terminal operators and key maritime stakeholders in Lagos, the minister argued that INTELS had a concession agreement with the Federal Government to handle oil and gas cargoes and this cannot be changed suddenly unless the agreement expires.
Daily Champion recalls that the INTEL prevailing contract has not ended and experts argue that no matter the extent of investments made by LADOL, no law or concession agreement in Nigeria empowers it to handle matters relating to oil and gas especially midstream discharges of cargoes.
Accordingly, Amaechi stressed that no amount of investment in the LADOL facility will change the law empowering it to operate within the Free Zone.
It would be recalled that former President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015 issued a directive that all oil and gas cargo should be handled at designated terminals. The directive came just as the National Assembly forwarded the bill to amend the Oil and Gas Free Zone Act to the president for assent.
The two efforts irked some stakeholders in the maritime industry who saw the moves as a ploy to put them out of business and to create an empire for a few stakeholders.
Giving more explanations on the matter in Lagos, Amaechi maintained that the concession agreement is that INTELS should handle oil and gas cargoes and this must be upheld until the concession agreement is reviewed.
According to him, ”When government entered into agreement with INTELS, they gave them license to handle oil and gas cargoes, so why then do you take away oil and gas cargoes from where the agreement says to somewhere else? It is because the matter is in court that is delaying me, if not, I won’t support LADOL” “If indeed there was such agreement that all oil and gas cargoes should be brought to Warri, Onne and Calabar, then it would be wrong to take part of somebody’s job and give it to another person” Amaechi said.
But in her response to minister’s position, Managing Director of LADOL; Mrs Emmy Jadesinmi argued that there had been a presidential directive of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umar Yar’ adua cancelling the diversion of all oil and gas cargoes to the eastern ports. She argued that diverting oil and gas cargoes to Eastern ports would create monopoly and lack of level playing field for foreign investors.
But analtsys wonders if the directives by Obasanjo and yar’Adua administration will over rule the most recent from the immediate former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
However, Jadesinmi stressed that LADOL has invested over US $500million into its facilities around the Snake Island in Apapa Lagos, arguing further that ”Our agreement with NPA clearly states that we are to develop a deep offshore logistics base”.
“We have invested 500million dollars and I believe the outcome of that investment is going to create 50,000 jobs in Nigeria”.
“We are the single largest investor on NPA facility in the whole of Nigeria, we are simply asking for our agreement to be respected and be respected as a free zone.” she pleaded.
But in a quick swipe, the Minister said that it could be best if the company stops it’s further investment pending when the case is fully decided.
“I understand how challenging it is for you if we just say stop (investing), but the earlier they (LADOL) understand that agreements made must be respected the better for all of us” “Certainty is the most important factor in business, the concession agreement is the law, don’t tell me whether it is fair or not, I will stick to the law”.
“I am not interested in how big your company is, you keep that to yourself, if there is no document to prove that the contract was cancelled, I will overrule LADOL” he said. He subsequently directed INTELS and LADOL to get all documents to his office which he promised to forward to President Muhammadu Buhari. He lamented that the rivalry between LADOL and INTELS is creating problems for his ministry. He said that in the rail and aviation sector, there is no much challenge as maritime sector. He said “maritime is filled with cacophony of voices”
Commenting on the issue, General Manager Legal, INTELS, Mr. Mike Ekpele told the minister that due process must be followed, especially as far as his company’s contracts are concerned. He noted that INTELS is operating the largest and fastest growing free zone in the world dedicated to oil and gas, adding that the company after concession has made investments as at 2015 of 1.15billion dollars. “At concession, BPE issued a letter to everybody stating specifically the kind of cargo you should handle, this should be respected” Ekpele submitted.