By Olugbenga Salami
The Nigerian Port Authority, NPA, on Thursday absolved itself before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts over the $852million and N1.8billion unremittances from private operators.
The Office of Auditor General for the Federation, OAuGF, had in the 2019 audit report, alleged that the NPA did not collect remittances from terminal operators which amounted to $852million and N1.8billion, respectively.
The Senate panel on the strength of the audit queries against NPA on Tuesday, gave its Managing Director, Mohammed Bello Koko and other management staff to appear before it unfailingly within 48hours
In response to the committee’s directive, the managing director explained that the lump sums of $852million and N1.8billion raised in the queries were accumulation of unremittances from the private port operators who came on board through 2006 concession agreement.
Faulty concession agreements signed with the private operators by the Federal Government in 2006, he explained, largely accounted for the unremittances NPA is being held responsible for today.
He said: “The $852milliion and N1.8billion unremittance by private operators to NPA, are largely caused by faulty concession agreements the Federal Government signed with them in 2006 when the ports were concessioned.
“The concession agreements were faulty in the sense that some of the operators are facing encumbrances in different ways to cover the space concessioned for them which also encumbered them to remit what are due from them to NPA.
“The encumbrances in question range from inaccessibility of some portions of areas leased, by concessionaire, communal encumbrance and volume change or turn-age amount.”
Koko pointedly told the committee members that federal government that signed the concession agreement with the private operators , even contributed to encumberances faced by the concessionaires at the beginning by not removing structures that belong to it from the right of way of the affected concessionaires .
“Out of the $852million, going by our in-house assessment, $504million are accumulated unremitted levies due to encumbered areas.
“However, we have been able to $232.2million and N269.4million from the N1.8billiion.
“We have gotten consultancy from the World Bank for review of the concession agreements which would be free from any form of encumbrances,” he further stressed.
On the second query of outstanding debts of $67.45million and N32.266billion, the managing director told the committee members that the debts were not incurred by NPA but the defunct Nigerian Shippers Councils which debtors are no longer traceable.
In his remarks, the chairman of the committee, Senator Aliyu Wadada in his remarks told the NPA boss to furnish the committee with their financial statement and way out for government to write off the legacy debts.