The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on Thursday criticized increase in tariff by the management of Port and Terminal Operators (Nig) Limited (PTOL).
Head, Public Relations, NSC, Mrs Rakiya Zubairu, in a statement explained that PTOL’s arbitrary increase of charges without consultation with its landlord, the NPA, and the Port Economic Regulator, NSC, ran foul of its lease agreement and government regulations.
Zubairu said that this was discussed at a recent meeting of NPA, NSC and PTOL which took place at the head office of NSC in Apapa, Lagos.
She said that the meeting was convened by the Acting Executive Secretary of the NSC, Ms. Ifeoma Ezedinma.
According to her, Ezedinma pointed out that such acts would attract sanctions, as the council, through public notices, visits and correspondence, was always advising regulated service providers to obey the law.
Citing Clause 5:5 of the lease agreement between NPA and PTOL, Mrs Ugo Madubuike, NPA’s General Manager, Monitoring and Regulatory Service, said the increase in charges was in contradiction of the Contractual Agreement.
Clause 5:5 states: “The lessee shall not make any increase in the operation rate unless agreed to in writing by the parties and any required persons or governmental authority has been obtained”.
Shippers council and NPA advised PTOL to present their proposed increases for negotiation through official channels as soon as possible, the statement said.
PTOL’s General Manager Macpherson Nwaukoni, is quoted as apologising for the oversight, while explaining that the action was taken due to losses the company had incurred in the course of operations.
These losses, according to him, occurred as a result of the import ban on certain items, resulting in the company’s inability to meet its obligation to the Lessor, particularly the rental debt they owe to NPA.
He is also quoted as saying that the comparison of their rates with other terminals revealed that their own charges were much lower.
All these, he said, made operations difficult, leading them to increase their tariffs from 15 per cent to 30 per cent.
He appealed for leniency, explaining that PTOL had not increased charges in 16 years and was currently running at a loss.
The Director, Legal Services Department of NSC, Mr Tahir Idris, advised PTOL to obtain documents on NSC’s legal framework in order to acquaint itself with the regulatory procedures of tariff increase and to be guided to follow right protocol.
According to the statement, the Director, Consumer Affairs, Mr Cajetan Agu, insisted that they revert back to their old rates until due process was followed.
He stressed that their action contravened the contracts they signed upon the lease, and as such they violated the Lessor contract and NSC Act.