Sequel to clarification by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that its burnt headquarters is secured against fire and theft, policy analyst, resource person and maritime commentator, Mr. Lucky Amiwero have said that any consideration for surplus budgetary allocation by the National Assembly (NASS) will amount to double funding and acts of illegality.
He explained that a legislative budgetary intervention in the face of a subsisting fire and theft insurance cover by NPA will amount to clear expression of official fraud that relieves the affected insurance company of its obligation to indemnify the authority.
Amiwero who doubles as the President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), explained that since NPA is not in default of its premium obligations, the rehabilitation of the burnt property and replacement of stolen items, that of the insurance company.
He further explained that with the insurance policy of the authority, neither is it the business of the Senate nor the House of Representatives to offer budgetary support of any kind to the authority, since doing so will not only jeopardize the functions of the insurance policy which NPA like every other corporate organizations are mandated to undertake and fulfill all obligations connected thereto, NASS offer of surplus jack-up of NPA’s budget will be barefaced attack on the public treasury, short of describing it, a monumental official fraud.
Amiwero who have served under over seventeen presidential committees in the past two decades and understand the workings of the industry, cautioned NASS to stir clear of its proposed support to NPA by way of raising the authority’s initial budget figures, and stop attempt at further bleeding the nation’s lean resources.
His words: “There are classes of insurance but if the losses suffered by the NPA in the incident were covered, then the insurer takes full responsibility to indemnify the insured of the losses suffered.
That is the essence of insurance. Going again to take money from government is double charge. I don’t want to call it fraud. Once the building is insured, the insurance company takes responsibility for everything; that is the truth. ”
General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communication of NPA, Engr. Adams Jato in a response to inquiry by the President of the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON), confirmed that the facility is fully insured against fire and theft by a consortium of insurers.
Although he did not disclose the names of the insurance companies, he said the lead insurance underwriter has appointed a Loss Adjuster to assess the value of damage and losses NPA suffered as a result of the incident.
Jato who did not deny NPA’s plan to jack up its 2021 budget to accommodate the cost of reconstruction of the building and replacement of looted equipment as advised by the lawmakers, however declined to divulge the new budget subheads believed to have been forwarded to NASS for consideration; saying the total jacket to be approved for NPA will be in the public domain when it finally gets approved.
It will be recalled that lawmakers of both legislative houses who visited the NPA headquarters recently on solidarity and to assess the level of damage and loss, had directed the Management of NPA to include in its 2021 budget monetary cost to cover the rehabilitation of the edifice and replacement of stole equipment.
Speaking during the visit, the Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Ports and Harbour, Garba Datti Muhammad said that members both of the chambers of the National Assembly were in Lagos to assess the level damage done to the NPA building.
He said, “We have gone round and seen the extent of the damage to the building and vehicles that were burnt in the fire incident. This will help the National Assembly to assist NPA in rebuilding the damage on the torched building. However, part of our discussion with them was for the NPA to bring its budget to the National Assembly because we advised them to adjust the budget to accommodate the rebuilding of the damages,” he explained.
Also reacting, a legal practitioner, Barrister Abel Iwarah said in spite of the lawmakers position, the law alone will take its course, noting that the lawmakers’ posture may have been driven by emotions.
“Businesses are guided by laws, I am not an insurance expert but as a lawyer, I know that at the end of the day, the law and legal positions regarding the incident suffered by NPA will apply as the only legal recourse”, he said, adding:
“I understand that public funds must be administered judiciously and responsibly, that is why I say that I believe that this matter will follow lawful due course, not emotions. I am sure that the lawmakers may have been carried away by emotions.
“At the appropriate time, everybody will play by the position of the law. The NPA cannot insure against fire and theft and come and draw funds from other sources, people will go to jail, that is why it is important to first of all establish the type of policy that was undertaking. That alone will provide the guidance, and also help the lawmakers to either maintain or review their thinking.”