17 September 2016, Lagos — Terminal operators in the country are fretful over the insistence of the Federal Government to collect all its dues, levies, and debts in the United States of American dollars.
The terminal operators under the auspices of the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) asked the Federal Government to consider them paying all the dues, levies and pending debts in Naira instead of the USA dollars as it has been the practice over the years.
Citing the downturn in the economy, scarcity of foreign exchange, low cargo throughput and vessels traffic in Nigerian ports as result of the low price of crude oil in the international market in the last two years, the terminal operators who are the concessionaires in the nation’s seaports argued that payment of their dues, levies and debts in Naira rather than the USA dollars would help them to break even.
To ensure that they succeed in their plans, the concessionaires who took over the day-to-day running of the nation’s seaports following the conclusion of the port concession programme in 2006 by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) lobbied those who have the listening ears of the President Muhammadu’s administration.
The sudden change in the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) which led to the removal of its Managing Director, Alhaji Habib Abdullahi, among other factors, however, put a spanner in the works.
Already, Abdullahi’s successor, Ms. Hadiza Usman who is regarded as an outsider in the murky politics in the Nigeria’s maritime industry is toeing a different line as she has continued to insist that since the concessionaires collect the money for their services in USA dollars they must also pay in USA dollars.
The Federal Government insistence to collect its dues, levies, and debts in USA dollars is already taking its toll on the concessionaires, with the hardest hit being the operator of Africa’s largest container port in Apapa, Lagos, APM Terminal Limited.
The operator which is one of the numerous subsidiaries of Danish port operator and logistics giant, AP Moeller Maersk Group is said to be at loggerhead with NPA on its debt running into several millions of USA dollars.
APM Terminal Limited was said to owe NPA about $265,584,069.68 as lease fees and about $30,069.94 as throughput fees. As at press time, no one in NPA House, the corporate Headquarters of the authority , Marina, Lagos or at SOAN was willing to make any public statement on the war of attrition.