Efforts to Get EFCC to Remove Seized Vessels Hits Brick-wall
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
After collecting rents on some of its commercial berths from port users, there are indications management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is running from pillar to pole to be able to deliver the said berths to their respective lessees’, an effort that is believed to have hit the brick walls.
Above development, according to findings, resulted from a number of seized cargo ships kept in its custody by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), apparently throwing spanners on efforts by the lessees to take possession of the berthing concessions.
To stave off the problems, Pinnacle Time gathered on good authority that the NPA has asked the EFCC to dispose of the legal cases affecting the vessels, in order to make room for their urgent removal, to forestall possible litigation against the authority over failed contractual obligation.
However, as at the time of filing this story, some of the seized commercial vessels are presently occupying various berths across ports nationwide, particularly in the Warri Port, thus obstructing NPA’s commercial operations and also impairing its corporate integrity, as the authority failed to deliver some of the berths it leased out to private concerns at the location.
Whereas some of the leases are already operational having been paid for, the concessionaires are believed to have been unable to take possession of the berths because they are occupied by some of the seized vessels.
The vessels in question are those seized by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the EFCC for prosecution, which in turn are kept in custody of NPA. Sources within NPA however said its duty to warehouse the seized vessels in its custody did not envisage the prolonged and indefinite period some of these seized vessels have been left in the various operational areas.
Sources explained further that the seized vessels unexpected apparent abandonment at the various ports is robbing the NPA of huge revenue because of its inability to put the berths into commercial usage.
Our reporter gathered that NPA recently had a meeting with the Commission in which the former impressed it on the latter, the necessity to fast track the process of the removal of vessels from the affected berths, even as the authority expressed worry about possible legal action against it by the lessees over failure to access the berths.
Worst hit is the Warri Port, where the Joint Task Force have been stationed permanently since the Niger Delta Militancy in the early 2000; within which period several vessels charged with fuel or crude stealing were arrested and dumped at the commercial berths.
Some of the seizures are believed to have resulted long drawn legal battle between the owners and EFCC. The situation worsened as the Warri Port lost its utilization for over a decade, and the NPA, Navy and EFCC found the axis a dumping ground for seized commercial ships.
With the gradual return of activities at the Warri Port, the NPA started to sublet some of the commercial berths, and realized much later that the seized vessels was creating problems of possession by the renters.
It was also gathered that the slow pace of our legal system has been a contributory factor. Although it is not clear how soon the EFCC will ‘remove’ the affected vessels, analysts say NPA was wrong to have entered into lease agreement with the affected port users without first ensuring that the affected berths were free of encumbrances.
Efforts by our reporter to getthe authority’s reaction on the matter proved unsuccessful, as the Corporate and Strategic Communications department, which promised to cross check and get back to us failed to do so.