By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA — LAWMAKERS in the House of Representatives were, yesterday, divided along party lines over allegation of unlawful termination of concession agreement between INTELS Nigeria limited and the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.
The issue of legality or otherwise of the said termination, pitched members against themselves, with lawmakers of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, condemning the action, while members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, argued in its favour.
The House finally resolved to probe the controversy surrounding the withdrawal of the Federal Government from the agreement, following a motion on matters of urgent public importance brought by Diri Douye (PDP, Bayelsa).
The Bayelsa lawmaker had moved the motion, urging the House to investigate the process of terminating the ports management agreement/contract entered into by the Federal Government and INTELS Nigeria limited, a company linked to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, since 2000.
Duoye told the House that INTELS had carried out logistic services in Apapa, Onne and Warri ports for 17 years and wondered why the NPA would suddenly wake up to terminate an existing agreement that was meant to run for 25 years.
He argued: “It’s known that INTELS Nigeria has over 7,000 Nigerians in its employment and these Nigerians have other dependents. And if we allow these people to lose their jobs, the economy will suffer further blow and setbacks.
“Terminating contracts of this nature, where the company had taken foreign loans to the tune of $900 million to build up the ports, must be given serious and thorough considerations. And we must also as a House, insist that in taking such decisions, the Nigerian Local Content Act and due process must be followed.”
Supporting the motion, Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo), informed the House that workers affected by the termination of the agreement were already protesting.
He queried: “How can an agreement that has existed for years and showing the world that concessioning works in Nigeria be cancelled in one day?
“INTELS is hiring Nigerians and if they must cancel that concession, they must follow due process. We want to keep taking oil in the Niger Delta and we are shutting down what gives the youths some level of livelihood, and when this happens, they go and start destroying installations.”
Other lawmakers who spoke in favour of the motion, include Hassan Saleh (APC, Benue), Simon Arabo (PDP, Kaduna), among others.
However, Rotimi Agunsoye (APC, Lagos), punctured Douye’s argument, saying the issue canvassed by the motion was purely a matter for the judiciary and not the National Assembly.
He said: “The motion he brought concerning the people working in this company is not in order. If Intels has a problem with government and they are aggrieved, why should they come here?
‘’They should go to court. The best they can do is write a petition to this House and the relevant committee will attend to it, not through a motion for debate. And when you even look at it, why should one company monopolise the operations of four ports when there are other service providers in the industry?”
Labour begs FG, Intels to settle differences
Meanwhile, Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MWUN, yesterday, pleaded with the Federal Government to resolve its differences with the management of Intels, saying jobs of over 11,000 workers were on the line.
MWUN also advised the Federal Government to avoid anything that could send wrong signals to investors that Nigeria’s environment was not safe and conducive for business.
The union in a statement by its President-General, Mr. Adewale Adeyanju, said: “As organised labour, our utmost concern is the job security and welfare of our members in Inter Nigeria Limited. Today, Intels has under its employment over 5,000 direct employees and over 6,000 indirect employees, bringing the number of employees to over 11,000.
“Most of these employees are Nigerians with families and responsibilities. We are, therefore, worried that if this issue is not resolved amicably, their jobs could be on the line. The socio-economic implications of most of them losing their jobs in a volatile area like Rivers State can be better imagined that experienced.”