- Says firm remains committed to Badagry deep seaport
By Eromosele Abiodun
The founder and majority shareholder of Intels Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s oil and gas logistics giant with operations in Onne, Rivers State, Warri, Delta State and Lagos, Mr. Gabriele Volpi, has apologised to the federal government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over the spat that led to the termination of the Pilotage Agency Agreement between his company and NPA.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY Thursday evening, the normally reticent Volpi, who holds dual Italian and Nigerian citizenship, said he was not involved in the negotiations between his firm and NPA over the disagreement on the pilotage agreement but was apologetic for the misunderstanding that had taken place.
He also resolved to ensure that Intels undertakes a reconciliation process with the NPA and transfers all the revenue collected from the boats monitoring and supervision services in Nigerian maritime waters to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in compliance with the policy of the federal government.
“We want to apologise to the federal government and NPA over this disagreement with Intels. I was not personally involved in the negotiations with NPA, but we apologise for what has happened.
“We intend to comply with the directive of government and transfer all the revenue to the TSA because we are a law-abiding company,” Volpi informed THISDAY on the phone.
Volpi added that his company was committed to co-operating with the federal government and the NPA in the development of the country’s maritime sector, including the construction of the Badagry deep seaport in Lagos State.
“We are committed to co-operating with the government and NPA in the development of Nigeria’s maritime sector and this includes the Badagry deep seaport.
“The Badagry deep seaport is a massive undertaking which will cost billions of dollars and will be the biggest in Africa and would turn Nigeria into a regional hub for ships bringing goods to the continent.
“It will also help to move a lot of shipping activities at the Apapa and Tin-can Island ports and help to decongest Apapa, so we are serious about our investments in Nigeria,” he said.
Efforts to reach the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, to react to Volpi’s apology were unsuccessful, as her phone was switched off.
Intels and NPA have been engaged in a war of words since the termination of the pilotage agreement by the latter last week over what NPA had said was its refusal to remit the revenue accruable from the pilotage services to the TSA.
THISDAY had exclusively reported that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had written to Bala-Usman on September 27, directing her to terminate the pilotage agreement on the grounds that the contract was illegal ab initio.
Malami in the said letter had stated that the agreement which had allowed Intels to receive revenue on behalf of NPA for seven years, was in contravention of the Nigerian Constitution, especially in view of the implementation of the TSA policy of the government.
Drawing the attention of Bala-Usman to the illegality of the agreement, Malami made it expressly clear that the agreement violated Sections 80(1) and 162(1) and (10) of the constitution, and wondered why the parties – NPA and Intels – did not revert their minds to the relevant provisions when they were negotiating the agreement in 2010.
On the basis of Malami’s letter, NPA on October 11 terminated the agreement, drawing the ire of Intels, which in a statement sent exclusively to THISDAY, termed the action “preposterous and the consequences highly injurious” to the interests of Nigeria.
Intels also threatened to take the matter to arbitration, but by Tuesday had soft-pedalled on its combative stance.
Intels is Nigeria’s biggest oil and gas logistics service provider, with its operational headquarters in Onne.
It was set up three decades ago by Volpi and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who has always held a minority stake in the firm.
Company sources informed THISDAY that until recently, the former vice-president held a 17.2 per cent stake in Intels, which he whittled down after he sold part of his stake to former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu.
“It is often erroneously reported in the media that Intels belongs to Atiku Abubakar. But he has always been a minority shareholder in the company. Until recently, he had a 17.2 per cent stake in Intels, but even that was whittled down when he sold part of his stake to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu,” explained a company source recently.