Govt wades into NIMASA, NLNG face-off

A ship berths near the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas company (NLNG) near Finima village, during an aerial tour by the Royal Dutch Shell company, in Bonny20 May 2013, Abuja – The Federal Government has intervened in the face-off between the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company, NLNG, over unpaid levies amounting to billions of Naira.

The face-off between both organisations arose following what NIMASA described as the expiration of the ten-year tax holiday granted NLNG by the law establishing the firm. Under the Act, NLNG was exempted from paying 3 per cent of its gross freight on all international inbound and outbound cargo to the government.

However, NIMASA is insisting that the condition that warranted the exemption of NLNG from paying the levies terminated over ten years ago and that the latter should have started remitting its taxes and levies to the Nigerian government since 2004.

The non-payment of the levies, which are believed to have hit billions of Naira, forced NIMASA to move against NLNG, disrupting its exports for many days.

However, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, said yesterday, that the Federal Government had waded into the feud and resolved that the matter should be sorted out amicably.

Although the Director General did not say how much the NLNG was owing NIMASA, he stated that the government had asked the gas firm to pay arrears of its indebtedness with effect from 2009.

“We had to enforce our laws relating to the payment of levies by the NLNG. The company refused to pay its indebtedness to us and that act emboldened others not to pay. But as at today, the government has seen reason with us and has asked NLNG to pay the debt. We should have started the calculation of what they are owing us from 2004 when they hit over 3 percent in gas price sales but we will start the calculation from 2009 and whatever it comes to, they have to pay us.”

Throwing light on the operation of NIMASA, Akpobolokemi said the agency had not committed any form of infraction in its recruitment and retirement policies as alleged in some quarters but added that Nigeria did not have enough Master Seafearers and surveyors, making it impossible for all the states to be represented in the agency.
*Soni Daniel & Emma Ujah, Vanguard

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