The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has disputed the claims of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited of a court order against it or any suit brought by the NLNG against the maritime regulator.
The clarification came as the operations of the NLNG, which accounts for 10 per cent of global supply of LNG and which NIMASA sealed off on Friday, remained disrupted, with three vessels prevented by a boat manned by 15 naval officers from accessing or leaving the company’s loading bay.
The NLNG said the blockade violated an order of the Federal High Court in Lagos, presided over by Justice M. B. Idris.
The company said it had secured an injunction against the maritime regulator and in deference to the federal government’s directive, had made a part payment of $20 million, as the disputed levies into NIMASA’s designated account, before approaching the court to seek proper judicial clarification and a lasting resolution on the conflict between the NLNG and NIMASA Acts.
But NIMASA’s Deputy Director in charge of Public Affairs, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, said in a statement at the weekend that contrary to NLNG’s position, the maritime regulator was not aware of any court order against it or any suit brought by NLNG against NIMASA.
He however admitted that NIMASA received the $20 million part-payment and on Saturday served detention notices/orders on vessels belonging to or chartered by the NLNG.
“This course of action was forced on NIMASA by the NLNG’s subsequent refusal or/and failure to abide by the outcome of the negotiated settlement arrived at through the mediation process it willingly instigated and subscribed to after reaching an agreement with NIMASA on its outstanding debt and paying $20 million out of it and its continued flagrant disregard for Nigerian laws,” he said.
Osamgbi stated that by its action, the NLNG had “trivialised the mediation process and the position of the federal government, whose Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation owns and holds 49 per cent of the shares in NLNG and which endorsed the agreement reached that NLNG should pay its taxes/levies and observe all its obligations under the laws of Nigeria in which it is operating”.
However, NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations, Mr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, in a statement, had identified the three vessels being detained by NIMASA as LNG Enugu, LNG Oyo, and LNG Imo.
He said NIMASA’s latest action violated the court injunction issued by Justice Idris, who presided last Tuesday in a suit filed against NIMASA, the Attorney General of the Federation, Global West, and any other parties from imposing any charges or disrupting the operations of the NLNG in any part of the country.
He said NIMASA’s action would impact negatively on international LNG buyers, the international financial market, Nigeria to which NLNG contributes 4 per cent of the country’s GDP, its shareholders and the investment climate in Nigeria.
NIMASA had blocked the Bonny Channel on May 3, preventing entry and exit of NLNG vessels.
Information from ThisDay was used in this report.