Court orders reversal of NLNG’s payments to NIMASA
NIMASA to appeal ruling, says Peterside
A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to refund the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) payments it had made to NIMASA.
The court said this became necessary, as the NLNG was not liable to make payments to NIMASA. The maritime agency had alleged that NLNG was liable to pay three per cent gross freight on its international inbound and outbound cargoes, Sea Protection Levy, two per cent cabotage surcharge on all activities carried out for and on its behalf, as well as other sundry claims, all of which the NLNG had disputed.
The presiding judge, Justice M.B. Idris, held inter alia, that NLNG was not liable to make the said payments to NIMASA and that all such payments already made should be refunded to the NLNG forthwith.
Idris further held that NIMASA was wrong in blocking the Bonny Channel for the purposes of enforcing the payments on NLNG. The gas company had in 2013 filed the case at the Federal High Court against NIMASA, seeking a judicial interpretation of the legality or otherwise of the levies sought to be imposed on NLNG by NIMASA and its consequent blocking of the Bonny Channel as a result of the dispute, among other things.
The NLNG had also sought a Court Order restraining NIMASA from further blocking of the Channel. An Interim Injunction granted in favour of NLNG by the Federal High Court was disobeyed by NIMASA, which again blocked the Bonny Channel for over three weeks while the matter was pending in court.
This, however, denied NLNG vessels and other vessels doing business with the company entry and exit through the Channel. NIMASA had filed a counterclaim restating its supposed entitlement to receive payment of the levies from NLNG.
NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations, Kudo Eresia-Eke, said the Federal High Court judgment reinforced the company’s position that by the provisions of the laws, it was not subject to payment of any levies to NIMASA.
He also said that the two per cent Cabotage Levy was not applicable because NLNG’s Liquefied Natural Gas vessels were not involved in coastal trade or cabotage.
This decision, he said, also affirms the sanctity of the guarantees and assurances conferred on the company and its shareholders by the Federal Government on the strength of which the shareholders made their investments from which the country has reaped huge returns.
Meanwhile, Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, yesterday expressed dissatisfaction with the judgment, saying the agency would appeal the court’s verdict.
“Our legal team is awaiting the certified true copy of the judgment, which we will study as respond as appropriate,” he said.
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