Atiku’s firm in $500m  investment controversy •Don’t drag Atiku into regulatory issues — Aide

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Stakeholders in the maritime industry have fingered the influence of 2016 Presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Nigeria’s Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubabar  in the controversial directive for  suspension of further investment  by Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics (LADOL).  The  former Vice President had  described recently  that INTELS is the most successful company of all his businesses..

It would be recalled that former President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015 issued a directive that all oil and gas cargos should be handled at designated terminals. He also  directed LADOL to relocate from Lagos on the grounds that all oil and gas cargoes should be handled mainly in Warri, Onne and Calabar. The directive remains unimplemented based on volume of over $500 million investment made by LADOL at the current location in Lagos and perceived impression that the directive was designed to reduce revenue inflow of Lagos State through relocation of complex projects expected to generate juicy revenue inflow for Lagos in  retaliation for excellent support of National Leader of Senator Ahmed Tinubu for President Muhammadu Buhari during the presidential election. The relocation directive by former President Jonathan was also abandoned by the APC-led administration initially on the grounds that the  the decision was reached to recognize the support of Rivers and other states in South East and South-South for his re-election. It will be recalled that immediately after his failure to be re-elected several appointments  of directors general and executive secretaries were made by the former President.

However, a reliable source hinted that the relocation directive initially jettisoned by the APC-led administration of Buhari was  revisited recently in appreciation of the support of Atiku for the election of President Buhari despite his defeat during the presidential primary of the party in Lagos. The implementation of the Jonathan’s ill-conceived directive was reached by the current administration to strengthen the financial muscle of APC leaders across the states. The current Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi who is determined to reclaim Rivers state for the APC in future elections is

having a strong battle with the PDP leadership in Rivers State after the defeat of APC governorship candidate Hon Dakuku Peterside at Supreme Court by Governor  Mr. Nyesom Wike. The relocation of the project to the Niger Delta under the control of PDP according to reliable sources  is expected to  boost the relevance of APC in PDP controlled states in South-South. President Buhari is also believed to have sympathy for the roles played by former Gov Amaechi during the election process and therefore will always as a priority consider issues relating to the relevance of Amaechi’s political career.  The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had advised the indigenous company to stop further investment until the controversy surrounding its concession agreement was resolved.

Speaking in Lagos last week, Amaechi  had directed  LADOL to stick to its concession agreement and federal government directive that all oil and gas cargos should be handled at designated terminals.

The Minister also asked the company to stop further investment saying “it could be best if the company stops further investment pending when the case is fully decided.”

Maritime stakeholders’ regarded  the directive as a means of protecting the business interest of the former VP against that of LADOL.

The minister at the stakeholder meeting said 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.

Though, he acknowledged that LADOL had  been investing continuously in its terminal, the minister said that could not change the law.

The directive came just as the National Assembly forwarded a  bill to amend the Oil and Gas Free Zone Act to the President for assent.

Amaechi maintained that the concession agreement is that INTELS should handle oil and gas cargoes and this must be upheld until the concession agreement was reviewed.

“When government entered into agreement with INTELS, they gave them licence 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.

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.

In a swift reaction, 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.

Jadesinmi added that LADOL had invested over $500million in its facilities around the Snake Island in Apapa Lagos.

“Our agreement with NPA clearly states that we are to develop a deep offshore logistics base, We have invested $500million  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  Nigeria, we are simply asking for our agreement to be respected and be respected as a free zone,” she pleaded.

But in response to this, the Minister said that it could be best if the company stopped further investment pending when the case was 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.

In his reaction, 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 in 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,” he said.