Terminal Operator disagree with NPA over $4m dept profile

0

…Reps Committee orders reconciliatory meeting between NPA, debtors

By Seun Ibiyemi

The House of Representatives’ Public Account Committee on Tuesday ordered the Management of the Nigeria Port Authority to hold an immediate reconciliation meeting with terminal operators in the nation’s ports so as to determine the actual indebtedness by the companies to the Federal Government as contained in the various Audit queries from the office of the Auditor General for the Federation.

The Chairman of the Committee Hon. Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun) gave the order following denial by one of the terminal operators listed by the NPA as being indebted to the Nigerian government to the tune of $4.04 million, Tincan Island Container Terminal, which faulted the claims by the NPA management insisting that it was “not owing the government a dime.”

Oke who gave the directive at the resumed hearing of the 2019 Auditor General of the Federation report said that the Bureau for Public Enterprise and some of the Committee members should be part of the reconciliatory meeting.

He said the reconciliation became necessary to sort out the controversy between both parties, since there was a total disagreement over the debt as contained in the Report of the Auditor General of the federation.

Tincan Island Container Terminal is one of the 18 terminal operators said to be indebted to the government to the tune of $753 million.

Oke had told the terminal operators that they were invited by the committee to state their own side of the story since the government was in dire need of money to meet certain obligations.

According to him, “I want Nigerians to understand why we invited private companies. Ordinarily, we have no business with private companies. The Auditor General for the Federation indicted terminal operators for being indebted to the Nigeria Port Authority.

“We invited the NPA and they have made their submission and gave us their breakdown of what the terminal operators are owing them and that they tried severally to recover the money. For fair hearing, we have invited you because we cannot have your head in your absence.

“That is why we had to invite you so that we can hear your side of the story because we are at a cross road. Nigeria is looking for money. Our children are at home and we need to pay ASUU and we have other serious issues to attend to. You have heard how much you are owing based on NPA records,” Oke appealed.

However, the General Manager, Finance of the company, Kunle Adigun said his company was not owing the NPA and government a dime, while accusing the NPA of failing to respond to several letters calling for reconciliation between them.

According to him, “Several times, we have made several appeals for NPA to come to the table for us to discuss. We have been writing letters since 2015, but no response. Our anniversary date is June because we started operation June 1, 2006. So, if there is going to be any changes, it should take effect from June.

“But NPA changed our charges on Throughput in March and also pushed our anniversary date back to March. This is not in line with the agreement we have with them. We told them that this is wrong.

“We sent several letters to them to change the throughput figures, but they never responded. I hope this meeting will help resolve that. Apart from that, we are entitled to some GMT.

“We have written several letters on that too, but NPA has not responded to that too. If you look at technically, it would appear as if TICT is owing. But in the real sense of it, TICT is not owing NPA a dime.”

Asked if he has seen the submission by the management of NPA, he said no, but admitted that the NPA has written them severally stating that the company was indebted to it, saying “we told them that we should reconcile because we don’t know where that was coming from. There was a time they even sent a figure.”

Head of Legal of the company, Mary-Anne Olopade said if the NPA had agreed to a reconciliation meeting with the company, there would have been no need for that investigative hearing.

According to her, “We are not saying NPA should not apply the CPIU because we know it will come into effect, but we are saying it should be applied within the agreement period. But they have not complied with the terms of the agreement. Applying it from March means that they are applying it three months before we came into operation.

“We have written them several letters, we do audit with them every quarter and on each occasion, we being up this issue. Even before this committee we have letter showing that as at 2015, we have letters inviting them for a meeting. If they had sat down with us, this meeting will not be happening today.

“We are saying that if we apply the CPIU properly, look at the GMT and the right the NPA is supposed to grant to us, then, we will get the rightful figure that may be outstanding and when we get those figures, we will do the needful. We are saying that calculation from March to June is wrong.”

A member of the Committee, Mark Gbillah faulted the claim by the company saying that the period that should be in contention should have been the period between March and June standing at three months only, stressing that the claim of not owing government may not be true.