INTELS: De-categorization of port terminals will lead to huge loss of government revenue

  • Says NPA’s action violates port concession agreement
  •  As Witness says Journalist Olomofe now vulnerable to glaucoma, following Customs battering

Terminals managing giant, the INTELS Nigeria Limited has indicated its opposition to blanket de-categorization of port terminals by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), stressing that not only is it not in the nation’s best interest, but that the gesture would also result in huge revenue loss to the Federal Government.

In a Witness Statement on Oath, filed at the Federal High Court Abuja in a case instituted by the company against NPA and four others, a Senior Legal Manager of INTELS Nigeria Limited, Mr. Dominic Onwuchekwa, stated that the proposed de-categorisation of the terminals will not only jeopardise the prospect of the Plaintiff recovering its investments under the concession agreement signed with the Federal Government, but that it will also undermine the commitments made to its lenders.

“In addition, the de-categorization will lead to a situation whereby all terminals will charge the lower fee of $1.2 per ton (even for oil and gas cargoes for which $5.83 per ton should be paid) in order to attract patronage from port users, but on the other hand short-changing the government itself and the people of Nigeria,” Onwuchekwa stated in the Witness Statement on Oath.

He averred that in discharging its obligations in accordance with the terms and conditions of the various Lease Agreements (including the Concession) with the Federal Government, INTELS had expended huge sums of money in upgrading port facilities and building infrastructures as well as developing specialized oil and gas designated terminals based on the need and requirements of the oil and gas industry world-wide.

“Conservatively, the Plaintiff has, thus far, expended over USD2 billion out of its own resources without amortization in various projects and has budgeted additional USD5 billion in phased Port Terminals development and infrastructural renewal,” he stated.

He said the huge investment by INTELS in five concessioned port terminals across the country were made in response to the Federal Government’s quest and demand for investment in port infrastructure development in Nigeria.

“In addition to the above, the Plaintiff had also expended these huge expenses because it had entered into and executed 5 nos. of Lease Agreements on the Concessioned Port Terminals which life span were 25 years with option of renewal for a further term on each terminal,” Onwuchekwa stated.

He said INTELS’ investment in the concessioned terminals was “based on the assurances and comforts from the 1st – 5th Defendants, especially the 3rd Defendant’s (NPA) categorization of Ports and Terminals, stating that the company “was persuaded into financing huge capital intensive projects for the benefits of the 1st- 5th Defendants and the people of Nigeria”.

According to him, “this relationship was based on the understanding that the Plaintiff shall re-coup its investments from its agreements with the Defendants entered in respect of contracts at the Oil and Gas Terminal services. The dredging and the reclamation of the 95 hectares swampy area at Federal Lighter Terminal Onne is one example out of several entered into between the 3rd Defendant and Prodeco international Limited which was financed by the Plaintiff.”

It will be recalled that Justice A.R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja last month issued an interim order directing the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and four others to maintain the status quo in a suit filed by INTELS Nigeria Limited on the de-categorization of terminals at the nation’s seaports.

INTELS, which filed the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/417/2017 at the Federal High Court Abuja, is, among other reliefs, asking the court to issue an order stopping NPA and other defendants including their representatives, agents or privies from implementing a proposed policy review which purports to cancel the designation of ports and terminals in Nigeria having led it into committing huge human, financial and material resources into developing five port terminals located in Calabar Terminal A, Warri Old Terminal A, Warri New Port Terminal B, Onne Port Federal Ocean Terminal A and Onne Port Federal Lighter Terminal B.

The defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria, Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian Ports Authority, Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Federal Ministry of Transport.

INTELS also asked the court to make a declaration that the five Lease Agreements it entered into and executed between the Plaintiff and the 3rd, 4th and 5th Defendants (who executed same for and on behalf of the 1st and 2nd Defendants) in respect of Warri New Terminal, Warri Old Terminal, Federal Lighter Terminal B, Calabar Terminal A and Federal Ocean Terminal A, all dated October 24, 2005 for 25 years renewable leasehold, are still subsisting.

Other reliefs sought by the company include a declaration that the Defendants are duty-bound to honour, perform and fulfill their contractual obligations as stated in the five Lease Agreements all dated October 24, 2005 between the Plaintiff and the 3rd, 4th and 5th Defendants acting for and on behalf of the 1st and 2nd Defendants; a declaration that the Plaintiff has not in any way whatsoever and howsoever, breached, violated and or failed to perform any of its duties and obligations as stated in the five Lease Agreements entered into and executed between the Plaintiff, and the 3rd, 4th and 5th Defendants acting for and on behalf of the 1st and 2nd Defendants.

In the meantime, a journalist, Yomi Olomofe may suffer severe glaucoma and impaired sight, following alleged battering he received from some Customs officers of Seme Border  Command on June 25, 2015.

A health official, Akintayo Akintoba indicated this on Monday in Lagos while testifying before a Federal High Court, noting that several tests including a CT scan on the journalist’s brain corroborated his informed view.

Olomofe had instituted a N500 million suit  on the Customs Service for the physical assault he allegedly suffered in the hands of the officers at Seme Border Post in Badagry, Lagos State.

Akintoba, the second witness to be called, told the court in his oral evidence that series of medical examinations were actually conducted to ascertain the health status of the journalist; hinting that the officers left more permanently damage on the journalist than earlier perceived.

It would be recalled that the  Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos Council, actually  filed the suit on behalf of Olomofe, seeking the enforcement of his fundamental rights to life, freedom of expression and the press.

Joined as respondents in the suit are: the then Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr Abdullahi Diko Nde, the Seme Area Controller of Customs, Mr Muhammed Ndalati, and a Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Mr Emmanuel Nkemdirim.

Others are Ibrahim Turaki, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs at Seme, Sam Madubueke, alias “big Sam of Ibiye”, Suleiman Momoh, alias “Basket”, one Elijah and Shehu.

At the last adjournment on April 25, Olomofe had given oral evidence, recounting how he was assaulted by some men at Customs premises at Seme.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, counsel to Olomofe , Mr Jiti Ogunye, called Akintoba, the second witness for the applicant.

Akintoba, who introduced himself as a medical officer with the Lagos State Government, said he practices as a family physician and also takes care of emergency situations.

He told the court that he received a phone call on June 25, 2015, from a Rotary Club member, Taiwo, informing him of an attack on Olomofe by some hoodlums at Customs premises at Seme.

According to him, Olomofe is a close friend he had known since 2009, and he decided to give him free medical services.

The witness said following the beating, an ambulance conveyed Olomofe to the hospital, but the workers were on strike.

“By my position as a health official, I assisted in taking the applicant to Care Givers Hospital, where emergency tests were run.

“He was later conveyed to Ajara for a detailed medical examination and investigation.”

Akintoba also told the court that considering the condition of the applicant, he advised him to lodge a complaint with the police for documentation.

He said from his assessment, he discovered that the applicant had sustained soft tissue injuries, including a head injury.

“I ordered that a CT scan for the brain should be conducted on the applicant to ascertain the level of brain damage.

“Although the results of the CT digital skull x-ray appeared normal, a victim could still suffer from a post-traumatic stress.

“An examination was also conducted on the eyes because at the time he was conveyed to the hospital, he had severe injuries and pressure in the eyes.

“If adequate care is not given the victim, he could suffer Glaucoma that could lead to blindness,” he said.

The witness said during the period, he received several threat calls from some mobile numbers and warned them to desist from calling him.

After his evidence, Justice Anka adjourned until July 13 for a cross-examination.

In the suit, the applicant is claiming the sum of N500 million as damages against the Customs and asking the court to declare that the respondents infringed on his right to life as guaranteed by Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.

The Council also wants the court to declare that the assault on him in the course of discharging his professional duties and obligations, constituted an infringement of his rights to freedom of expression and the press.