by Sylvania Ekpo
The sledgehammer seems to have come down hard on the integrated logistics limited, Intel’s and her subsidiaries with the revocation of the residence permits of their expatriate staff by the federal government.
According to a statement by the Nigeria immigration service, NIS, the decision was taken after the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, OGFZA, withdrew the operational licence. The affected staff are expected to leave Nigeria by November 30, 2017 failing which they might be deported by the ministry of interior.
Intels, a company owned by the former vice-president and chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, Atiku Abubakar, was in the news early in October when it was reported that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had terminated its pilotage contract in Onne, Rivers State. According to the managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, Intels had failed to remit the monies collected on its behalf into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria. The monies were said to be about N250 Million.
Usman further stated that after all entreaties to couple intels to do the needful failed, the NPA had no choice than to report the matter to the Ministry of Justice for advice. Subsequently, the ministry directed that the pilotage and bare boat contract should be terminated. In a swift reaction, the chairman of Intels, Mr. Gabriele Volpi said his company was ready to comply with relevant laws guiding the operations of his business in Nigeria and would not contest the revocation in court.
Intels has been a major logistics force in Onne, providing state-of-the-art equipment, manpower and capacity building employing well over 12,000 operations, especially in the Niger Delta region.
The decision to revoke the work permits of its expatriate staff is being seen as a deliberate ploy to weaken the financial base of Atiku Abubakar who has openly said he is running for president in 2019.
Beyond any doubt, the political economy Will reverberate with this haunting spectre that is calculated by Intels’ traducers to cripple the company. It will also send wrong signals to the investigating community and discourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Between 2000 and now, Intels has invested millions of dollars in the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, turning a once hostile, backward environment into an international investment destination for West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea.
Unfortunately, while Intels held sway as the foremost logistics provider in the country, it tried to scheme other emerging logistics providers out of the game, ostensibly to monopolise the business. Infact, it had the power life and death in the logistics business until the sledge-hammer fell on it yesterday.
According to the Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, the founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, president Mohammadu Buhari’s fight against all monopolies in the country should be supported by all Nigerians.
More reactions trail the sack of Intels…
Reactions from concerned stakeholders have continued to pour in over the recent decision by the federal government to revoke the residence permits of Intels expatriate staff and their subsidiaries.
Speaking with our reporter on telephone, the National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said the action of the government was political, noting that it was incumbent on investors coming into the country to obey the laws of the land or risk sanction. Prince Shittu said, however, that government needed to clear the air as to the reasons behind the action in order to reassure foreign investors.
Also speaking in the same vein, the founder of NAGAFF , Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, noted that for too long Intels had not been following laid down procedure in its operations. He disclosed that under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a powerful figure in the North West was responsible for clearing about 95 percent of cargoes coming through the land border. He stated that by the action of government, avoidable monopoly had been broken in the North West. “I believe Mr. President will still do more because if you are doing the right thing, you can continue your work ; but if you are doing the wrong thing, you cannot continue. That is the essence of good governance”, he said.
He further stated that government had the right to revoke the expatriate permits because it had the sovereign power to revoke or retain.
Dr. Aniebonam wondered why people and businesses would be allowed to collect fees in Dollars when the Naira was the country’s legal tender. He concluded by saying that Intels, for many years operated as if it was untouchable and called on Nigerians to support the President to break the back of this monopoly.