The House of Representatives Committee on Local Content on Wednesday commenced an investigation into allegations of marginalisation against Nigerians in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s shipping contract.
The committee is specifically looking into Nigeria’s coastal and bunkering vessel contract awarded by NNPC to UNIBROS shipping company, a Greece-based company.
At the public hearing, the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) appeared before the committee with a petition that the state-owned oil company is denying Nigerian shippers the opportunity to benefit from the $14 trillion global annual cabotage industry.
Mkgeorge Onyung, the president of SOAN, while speaking before the committee, said Nigerians are being denied the opportunity in the shipping business, despite the existing laws on local content.
He said NNPC conducted a closed bid and awarded the contract to 11 foreign-flagged coastal tanker vessels belonging to the UNIBROS in breach of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act.
Speaking on the allegation, Bashir Jamo, the director-general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said NNPC must respect the law, irrespective of the capacity of indigenous shippers.
“Even if the indigenous shipping companies do not have the capacity, the provisions of the Cabotage law should be respected,” he said.
The Chairman of the Committee, Legor Idagbo (APC, Cross River), read a letter from the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) saying that UNIBROS, the company that NNPC awarded the contract to, is not in the database of the FIRS.
“We are focused on the breach of our laws. Our laws specifically state that our contracts must be awarded to indigenous ship owners according to the Cabotage Act. If you go ahead to award a contract without adhering to those four things as stipulated in our laws, it is in breach,” Mr Idagbo said.
He ruled that the NNPC and Ministry of Transportation should provide the committee with all necessary documents on the contract.
The lawmaker also expressed displeasure with the Group Managing Director of the NNPC for failing to reply the committee through the proper channel.
“Let me state on record that this committee is totally displeased by the correspondence signed by one Garba Mohammed, Group Public Affairs Division from NNPC.
“We wrote a letter to the GMD NNPC on this investigative hearing and if for any reason, he could not be here present, he should have at least had the courtesy of himself responding to the communications that was issued by this Committee, so we discountenance this.”
The lawmaker said the committee will take proper action if the GMD should fail to appear before it.
The committee has adjourned the hearing for one week.