Nigerian government restores boat service contract to Atiku’s logistics company Intels after 3 years

The Federal Government has reinstatement Intels Nigeria Limited to operate boat service operations previously owned by the People Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the Lagos pilotage district.

The government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) officially granted an extension to the contract following presidential directives and court consent judgment.

This was contained in memo made available to shipping companies through berthing meeting committee and signed by Charles Okaga, port manager of Lagos Ports Complex (LPC), dated November 30, 2023

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The NPA had in September 2020 announced the termination of the boat operation contract, directing all service boat owners and operators to do transactions directly in each port complex of the NPA.

But a Federal High Court in Lagos granted an interim injunction, preventing the termination of Intels’ role as a managing agent in various Pilotage Districts. The injunction was issued in response to a suit filed by Intels and Deep Offshore Service Nigeria Limited, seeking to continue their duties pending the resolution of arbitration proceedings.

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In the statement titled ‘Reinstatement of Intels Nigeria Limited as the authority’s service boat operations monitoring provider in the pilotage district’, the NPA said the move aims to bolster revenue generation from Service Boat Operations, aligning with both the agency and federal government’s objectives.

In accordance with the terms outlined in the Managing Agency Agreement, Intels Nigeria Limited has received a directive to promptly resume services. The company is expected to operate as the managing agent for Service Boat operations in the Lagos Pilotage District (LPD).

The new directive urged shipping companies to provide unrestricted access to information on pilotage movements for Intels, in addition to provision of necessary assistance for a seamless commencement of operations.

Why FG rehires Intels

Sources who spoke with Premium Times said the new resolution was reached against the background of the Onne Port construction deal struck by the NPA and Intels. Those familiar with details of the deal said Intels agreed to construct the port and shore up finances with revenue generated from its boat contract with the NPA.

But trouble started when, in September 2020, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) terminated the boat operation contract being handled by Intels Nigeria Limited, INL. In a marine information notice dated September 1, the Lagos Pilotage District (LPD) of the NPA said the service, hitherto handled by Intels, had been terminated and consequently directed all service boats owners and operators to do transactions directly in each of the Port Complex of the NPA.

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The termination notice at the time heightened the lingering tension between NPA and Intels.

Sources on Saturday said that upon the termination of the contract by NPA, the Nigerian government recorded heavy revenue losses from the operations as officials who took over from Intels had no capacity to operate the contract. A source told this newspaper that from about $200 million, the annual revenue fell to about $50 million.

Upon assuming power on 29 May, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration assigned officials to look into areas of revenue leakages and the boat contract was listed among strategic areas in which the government has been losing massive revenue.

As part of its conflict resolution mechanisms and revenue generation efforts, the government called for negotiation based on prevailing agreements and the boat service contract was extended.

However, details of the court consent judgment remain unclear as of press time Saturday evening.

The new resolution brings fresh insights into the long-running battle between Intels and NPA.

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Recall that in June 2017, the Nigerian government moved against Intels, which was then partly owned by former Nigerian vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. The company was founded over three decades ago by Gabriele Volpi, an Italian national who also has Nigerian citizenship, and Mr Abubakar was a minority shareholder.

Earlier in April of that year, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the recommendations of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, breaking Intels’ near-monopoly in the handling of oil and gas cargoes in the country.
Mr Abubakar later sold his interests in the company through a series of transactions in 2020. An official said at the time that the former Nigerian Vice President exited the company with his family in a series of deals that began in December 2018.

After NPA terminated Intels contract in 2017, it kickstarted a procurement process to hire new contractors for the project. But more than five years after, the process is yet to conclude.

Government insiders said the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) recently recommended four contractors for consideration, one each for Lagos Pilotage District, Warri Pilotage District), Bonny/Port Harcourt Pilotage District) and Calabar Pilotage District.

With the decision to rehire Intels, it does appear the government has abandoned that procurement process.

Meanwhile, Atiku has reacted to claims that the federal government’s reinstatement of Intels Logistics boat operation contract, was meant to benefit him.

Atiku disclosed in a post on Sunday, that he no longer has a stake in Intels Logistics, hence could not be a beneficiary of the contract.

The government had a few days ago, through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) reinstated Intel’s boat management contract which the then President Muhammadu Buhari’s government terminated.

On social media, some netizens interpreted the news to mean a business deal that would favour Atiku.

But in a statement posted on X, Atiku clarified that no benefit would accrue to him from the reinstatement.

He said, “In January 2021, I made public the sale of my shares in Integrated Logistic Services Nigeria Limited (Intels) to Orlean Investment Group, the parent company of Intels.

“The phased sale of those shares that commenced in 2018 peaked in December 2020. Intels also made public my exit from the oil and gas logistics company, meaning that a different entity now owns those shares I sold.

“My divestment from the company that I co-founded has not been reversed. Consequently, I cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be a beneficiary of the reinstatement of the boat pilotage monitoring business that was taken away from Intels by the Federal Government.

“Therefore, the insinuation that I am a beneficiary of the decision to rescind the cancellation of the contract between Intels and the Federal Government is untrue and should be seen for what it is: mischief. -AA”

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