The House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Treasury Single Account (TSA) yesterday gave Intels Nigeria Limited 24 hours to declare the amount of public funds currently in its possession as well as transfer same to the TSA without further delay.
It further summoned the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, to appear before it urgently.
Also summoned for urgent appearance before the committee was the Managing Director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited (NPDC), Mr. Yusufu Matashi.
According to the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Abubakar Nuhu (APC, Kano), the Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, had previously told the committee that it was being owed by Intels, adding that the monies ought to have been transferred to the TSA at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Speaking at the continuation of the public hearing ordered by a resolution of the lower chamber on the implementation of the TSA, Nuhu, therefore, demanded explanation on why Intels was still holding on to the funds.
The committee was particularly disturbed that Intels appeared not to even know the total amount of public funds in its possession, prompting the chairman to rule that the figure be declared within 24 hours, after which it is to be transferred to the TSA unfailingly.
However, Intels Executive Director, Silvano Bellinato, who appeared alongside the firm, Senior Legal Adviser in charge of concessions, Mr. Mba Onu, told the committee that though the company was not against the implementation of the TSA, there are subsisting agreements between it and the NPA which pre-dated the TSA, adding that the seeming confusion stemmed from a contradictory directive from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which needed to be clarified.
He also said as at the last count, it was being owed about $849 million by NPA, adding that it is entitled to 28 per cent collection commission.
Specifically, he said paying the monies to TSA as being demanded could hurt its financial obligations to its creditors as it would not be able to take its commissions as well as fund some of the developmental projects currently executed in partnership with NPA among other things.
Bellinato particularly expressed concern that going by precedents, monies already paid into TSA could be difficult to retrieve.
But his explanation fell on deaf ears as the committee insisted that the circular on the transfer of all public funds to the TSA must first be honoured before any other thing.
The committee also demanded to know if the amount of NPA’s funds with Intels was the exact equivalent the latter is being owed.
Intels said NPA’s monies far exceeded what it was being owed.
This prompted the chairman of the committee to recommend that interest on the monies which have been withheld for about one year now be calculated and paid along.
A member of the committee told Intels: “You see, at this side of the table, we are representing people and it’s the people’s money we are looking for. Business between you and NPA is business between you and NPA; what we are concerned as members representing our people is where is our money? Our money is supposed to be in the TSA. Even if you take the money to TSA, it’s still NPA’s money but withholding the money which is not part of the agreement between you and NPA, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.
“Government has a policy; everybody, every agency is expected to comply first; obey before complain.”