Sequel to decategorization of Onne Ports from being an exclusive oil and gas facility, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), advised Dangote and other importers to utilise Onne Ports to avoid looming congestion at the two Ports in Lagos.
The erstwhile NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman made the clarification while reacting to media reports that the NPA under her watch exempted Dangote from statutory charges.
In a statement she personally signed on Tuesday, Hadiza, again, reiterated that all decisions taken by the Executive Management Team under her leadership were in the best interest of Nigeria.
The statement reads:
“My attention has been drawn to media reports suggesting that the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority under my leadership breached NPA rules and exempted the Dangote Groups of companies from paying certain statutory charges at the Onne Ports, River State. I wish to state with all emphasis that these accusations are false and mischievous.
Even the letter dated February 5, 2019 (published in the media report), communicating the Authority’s decision on this subject to the management of Intels Nigeria Limited states in the last paragraph: “Hence, the Authority therefore directs that all cargoes of Messers Dangote Industries Limited and INDEED ALL IMPORTERS BEING DIRECTED TO ONNE PORTS for customs clearance, specifically for these projects, and are multi-purpose in nature to be treated by applying the same operational rates used by other multi-purpose terminals.” This paragraph is explicit about the fact that all multi-purpose cargoes diverted to Onne were expected to benefit from this directive.
Background to the directive:
Until 2018 when the Authority wrote when the Federal Government approved the decategorisation of Onne Ports as the solely designated oil and gas terminal in Nigeria, only oil and gas cargoes called at the ports, contrary to global practices in the maritime industry.
For reasons, which included national security, ease of doing business as well as the need for Nigeria to embrace international best practices, this oil and gas monopoly was removed in 2018, with the effect that all categories of cargoes could call at the Onne Ports. This means that importers could choose and have their cargoes delivered at any of our port locations regardless of what their consignments were.
With that decision, it followed that tariffs must be reviewed to reflect the specific category of cargo being imported as opposed to the rates that existed when the Onne Ports received only oil and gas cargoes.
This reality got more urgent when the congestion at the two ports in Lagos became worsened by uncleared cargoes meant for construction at the Petrochemicals Refining Gas and Fertilizer project of the Dangote Groups at the Lekki Free Trade Zone. At a point, the company wrote to inform the Authority that it was expecting 60,000 containers and 1,000,000(One million metric tonnes) Break Bulk cargo. If these were allowed to proceed to Lagos, it would have turned into an emergency.
To avert this situation and give the ports in Lagos some respite, the Authority advised Dangote and other importers to utilise the Onne Ports, which has then been decategorized from being an exclusive oil and gas facility.
“Let me reiterate that this decision, alongside every other one taken by the Executive Management Team under my leadership was in the best interest of Nigeria. We also considered ensuring ease of doing business for people who transact business at our ports. I consider it unfortunate that anyone would attempt to play on the intelligence of Nigerians by twisting the facts especially when they are harmed with the “leaked letter.”