The House of Representatives Committee on Nigerian Content Development and Oversight on Wednesday gave Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi; and the group general manager of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, to appear before her and explain the award of a multibillion naira contract for the coastal transport of petroleum products in the downstream sector to a shipping company unregistered foreigner in violation of the law on sabotage.
Committee Chairman Legor Idagbo issued the ultimatum at the end of the investigative hearing on a petition filed by the Nigerian Shipowners Association, which sounded the alarm over Nigeria’s alleged inability to benefit from the annual global cabotage market of $ 14 billion.
Federal Inland Revenue Service chairman Mohammed Nami in a letter to the committee claimed that UNIBROS was not registered in the Service’s database and paid no tax to the federal government.
For his part, the director general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Security Agency, Mr. Bashir Jamo, who accused the NNPC of frustrating indigenous shipping companies, said a vessel must be owned and piloted. by Nigerians, registered and built in the country, adding that any vessel that does not comply with the provisions of the Coasting Trade Act violates applicable laws.
Jamo noted that the minister is empowered by section 15 (1) of the Coasting Trade Act to grant a provisional license to an indigenous shipping company by way of derogation for one year, to ensure that it does not cripple not the country’s economy. He said, however, that “even if the native shipping companies do not have the capacity, the provisions of the Coasting Trade Act must be respected”.
While noting that NIMASA does not have the statutory powers to grant a waiver, the CEO noted that the agency was charged with the responsibility of dealing with the waiver approved by the Minister.
SOAN President Dr MkGeorge Onyung alleged that NNPC, which conducted a closed tender, awarded the contract to 11 foreign-flagged coastal tankers owned by UNIBROS, in violation of the Law on coastal and inland navigation (cabotage) and the presidential executive. Ordinance No. 5 signed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired).
Onyung also accused the NNPC of abusing customs regulations to gain an unfair advantage in awarding contracts to foreign shipowners. He explained that 11 shipping companies around the world, owned by Norwegians and Chinese, made half-yearly profit of around $ 50 billion, regardless of capacity but based on available opportunities.
He said that although the Nigerian shipowners are ready to accept payments denominated in naira, the NNPC gave the contract to a foreign shipowner in dollars.
He argued that the contract award will lead to an amplification of capital flight, valued at over $ 100 million per year to the detriment of our economy, adding that no import tariffs have been imposed. paid for any of the 11 vessels in violation of fiscal and monetary policy obligations.
Idagbo, in his ruling, said: âThis committee should write to the NNPC to provide them with all the details of the contract that was awarded in 2020 and all the relevant information needed as this is an investigative hearing. And without the NNPC providing us with this document, as we are now, we have no documentation; it’s just what the shipowners tell us we have. Thus, the NNPC must provide us with all the information relating to this contract.
âThe Ministry of Transport should also provide us with the information it has regarding the same contract. In order for us to move forward, we need to have all the relevant information, just as the GM also said.
âWe are focused on breaking our laws. Our laws specifically state that our contracts must be awarded to indigenous shipowners in accordance with the Coasting Trade Act. If you decide to award a contract without complying with these four things as stipulated in our laws, it is a violation.
âFrom the Shipowners Association submission, they showed they had the capacity and they advocated. We have heard from DG NIMASA. We would adjourn for today and invite the NNPC to our next date, we would invite the Honorable Minister of Transport, as well as the NCDMB.
He added: âLet me state officially that this committee is totally unhappy with the correspondence signed by a certain Garba Mohammed, Public Affairs Division of the NNPC group. We wrote a letter to GMD NNPC regarding this investigation. And if for some reason he could not be here, he should at least have had the courtesy to respond himself to the communications that have been issued by this committee.
âSo we are reducing that. We assume that we have not heard from the NNPC and at our next postponed date if the NNPC does not show up by that date we will not hesitate to follow the process of the law and the powers given to the National Assembly, a meeting adjourned for one week. ”
Meanwhile, the House also congratulated the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), on Wednesday for establishing and mandating a high-level presidential committee to continue updating the extension of the continental shelf. .
The Chamber also decided to âinvite the high-level presidential committee headed by the Attorney General of the Federation (and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN), the inter-ministerial technical committee coordinated by the National Border Commission and the States -United. The United Nations resident team will inform the Chamber of the progress of the continental shelf project.
In addition, the House instructed the Maritime Safety, Education and Administration Committee to closely monitor the continental shelf extension project and provide a quarterly report.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Nigerian Content Development and Oversight, Legor Idagbo, had proposed a motion entitled “Need to determine the position of Nigeria’s submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf”, which was adopted unanimously by the legislators.
Idagbo noted that Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allows coastal states to make additional claims of 200 nautical miles to a maximum of 350 nautical miles beyond the state’s continental shelf. .
He also noted that on May 7, 2009, Nigeria submitted a proposal to extend its continental shelf to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
According to the legislator, when a state proves by scientific information supported by data and arguments that the seabed and the subsoil of the marine area of ââits territorial waters extend beyond the exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, the United Nations Convention allows such an additional claim to a maximum of 350 nautical miles.
Idagbo said: âThe Chamber recognizes that the continental shelf, when it extends beyond 200 nautical miles of the exclusive economic zone, would extend the sovereignty of Nigeria and give it rights of exploration and exploitation over coastal marine resources and help increase its income.
“The Chamber also recognizes that the extension of the continental shelf will extend Nigeria’s naval activities, national security to the sea, the seabed and the airspace.”