John Ameh and Ozioma Ubabukoh
The House of Representatives on Wednesday asked the Attorney-General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Nigerian Ports Authority to reverse the termination of the logistics contract between Intels Nigeria Limited and the NPA.
Maritime workers also said through their union that the cancellation of the Intels vessel pilotage service could lead to the loss of 11,000 jobs.
Under the Boats Pilotage Monitoring and Supervision Agreement, Intels, a firm where former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar controls a majority stake, is in charge of collecting revenue on behalf of the NPA.
But, the NPA terminated the agreement on the directive of the AGF on September 27.
Lawmakers reacted to the development on Wednesday, directing its ad hoc committee to investigate the action of Malami and the NPA.
They specifically asked that the termination of the contract be reversed, pending the outcome of the investigation.
“The NPA should revert to status quo ante, prior to the termination of the agreement until facts are established, to avoid injury to any party,” the House stated.
A member from Bayelsa State, Mr. Diri Douye, who moved the motion urging the House to intervene, claimed that Intels had already invested $900 executing the contract.
His motion read partly, “The House notes that Intels secured foreign loans to finance the construction and operation of the Apapa, Warri and Port Harcourt port terminals.
“Intels has carried out the services for years since the agreement was signed between the NPA and Intels in 2010. The House equally notes the implication of the termination of the contract on 7,000 Nigerians and their dependents, who are employees of Intels since the inception of its services to the NPA at the maritime sector.”
While debating the motion, members observed that the reason cited by the AGF was that the contract was “illegal” abinitio, and ran contrary to the Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal Government.
However, they stated that if it pre-dated the TSA policy, it would be out of order to terminate the contract suddenly without the parties discussing their differences first.
Some members suspected that there might be “political or other motives” fuelling the actions of the AGF and the NPA.
For instance, a Peoples Democratic Party member from Kaduna State, Mr. Simon Arabo, said a contract that had operated for over a decade could not be “voided just like that.”
Arabo, a lawyer, added, “There is more to this issue than meet the eye. That is why this investigation is necessary and it has to be conducted by the House.”
An All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Benue State, Mr. Hassan Saleh, called for the motion to be amended to read that the termination of the contract should be reversed, pending the outcome of the investigation.
The amendment was moved and passed to be part of the resolution at Tuesday plenary, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.
But, one APC member from Lagos State, Mr. Rotimi Agunsoye, described the motion as unnecessary, arguing that what Intels should have done, if there was a breach of its agreement with government, was to go to court.
Agunsoye stated, “We have no business attending to this motion. Why are we speaking for Intels? Why should only one company monopolise such services in Nigeria? If Intels has any problems with the NPA, let them go to court.”
The majority of members supported the motion, soon after Dogara ignored Agunsoye’s contribution.
The Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria said that its utmost concern was job security and welfare of its members at Intels.
The President-General, MWUN, Adewale Adetunji, speaking with one of our correspondents in Lagos, said,
“We are aware that Intels Nigeria Limited has under its employment over 5,000 direct employees and over 6,000 indirect employees bringing the number of employees to over 11,000. Most of these employees are Nigerians with families and responsibilities.”
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