Federal lawmakers in the House of Representatives were on Wednesday divided over the allegation of unlawful termination of concession agreement between Intels Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.
The argument, which centered on the legality or otherwise of the said termination, pitched members against one another, with lawmakers of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), condemning the action, while members of the all Progressives Congress (APC) argued in its favour.
The House, however, resolved to probe the controversy surrounding the withdrawal of the Federal Government from the agreement following a motion on matters of urgent public importance brought by Honourable Diri Douye (PDP, Bayelsa).
Douye had moved the motion urging the House to investigate the process of terminating the Ports management agreement/contract entered into by the Federal Government and Intels Nigeria Limited, a company linked to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar sine year 2000.
He informed the House that Intels has carried out logistic services in Apapa, Onne and Warri Ports for 17 years and wondered why the NPA would suddenly wake up to terminate an existing agreement that was meant to run a course of 25 years.
Douye argued: “It’s known that Intels Nigeria has over 7,000 Nigerians in its employment and these Nigerians have other dependants. And if we allow these people to lose their jobs, the economy will suffer further blow and setbacks.
“Terminating contracts of this nature where the company had taken foreign loans to the tune of $900 million to build up the ports must be given serious and thorough considerations.
“And we must also as a House insist that in taking such decisions, the Nigerian Local Content Act must be followed, and that due process is also followed,” he added.
Supporting the motion, Hon. Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo), informed the House that workers affected by the termination of the agreement are protesting, saying that “how can an agreement that has existed for years and showing the world that concessioning works in Nigeria, be cancelled in one day?
“Intels is hiring Nigerians and if they must cancel that concession, they must follow due process. We want to keep taking oil in the Niger Delta and we are shutting down what gives the youths some level of livelihood, and when this happens, they go and start destroying installations,” Ogun argued.
Other lawmakers who spoke in favour of the motion include Hon. Hassan Saleh (APC, Benue), Simon Arabo (PDP, Kaduna), amongst others.
However, Hon. Rotimi Agunsoye (APC, Lagos) punctured Douye’s argument, saying that the issue canvassed by the motion was purely a matter for the judiciary and not the National Assembly.
“Diri is my friend. The motion he brought concerning the people working in this company is not in order. If Intels has a problem with government and they are aggrieved, why should they come here? They should go to court. The best they can do is write a petition to this House and the relevant committee will attend to it, not through a motion for debate.
“And when you even look at it, why should one company monopolise the operations of four ports when there are other service providers in the industry?” Agunsoye queried.
Citing Section 16 (2)(c) of the constitution, Hon. Ahmad Baba Kaita (APC, Katsina) told the House that before the coming of Intels, there were so many companies providing shipping/logistic services in the ports.
“And by the time this agreement was brought to fore, all other shipping companies died and phased out. There was no more room for competition. The agreement kills any possibility of competition. And the level of revenue to government was at its lowest level. Now that other companies have been allowed to come in, the revenue accruing to government has shot up astronomically.
“Intels as we see today is not even owned by Nigerians, the ownership structure of Intels is purely foreign but they used Nigerians as fronts and they have killed many indigenous companies operating in the same industry and we are talking about Local Content,” Kaita argued.
Hon. Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC, Kano), also argued in the same vein, citing Section 81 of the Constitution which provided that “all revenues or other monies made on behalf of government shall be paid to an account known as the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federation”.
He said further: “the NPA has directed Intels to pay this revenue to TSA, after taking 28 percent, they have refused to do so. Why don’t they do so if they are not defrauding Nigeria?”
At this point, Speaker Yakubu Dogara who presided over the session intervened saying that the information given by Madaki was not before the House.
Dogara argued that monopoly is never an offence anywhere in the world, adding: “some businesses are better carried out in a monopolistic environment”.
He said the issue to be bothered about is if the monopoly is being abused by the person enjoying it.
In an amendment to the prayers, Hon. Mohammed Sani Abdul (APC, Bauchi), suggested that “while the House investigates the issue on ground the Company should be left alone to continue its operations based on the existing agreement.”
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