By Adewale Sanyaolu
The Managing Director of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), Mr. Babs Omotowa has clarified that incentives granted to NLNG were not peculiar to Nigeria.
Omotowa stated this at the House of Representatives Committee on Gas public hearing on a bill to amend the NLNG Act in Abuja yesterday. But contrary to criticisms, the NLNG boss explained that the incentives were granted to encourage investments in gas utilisation in order to reduce flaring which had become a major problem for the country. According to him,examples of similar incentive initiatives abound in Angola (12 years), Oman, Malaysia, Qatar and Trinidad (up to 10 years).
He insisted that other more generous incentive schemes also exist in Nigeria, especially in the Free Trade Zones.”
Omotowa explained that the current amendment effort is most unusual as it attempts to enforce the payment of a levy from which an entity is expressly exempted by a valid and subsisting legislation in which the Federal Government of Nigeria gave unequivocal undertakings and declarations that induced significant investments.
“As far as we are aware, this is the first time in the history of legislative practice in Nigeria that a proposal is being made to amend a law for the sole purpose of imposing a levy against a company for the benefit of an agency of government.
We urge the Honourable Committee not to lend itself to the establishment of an unjust precedent. To do otherwise would be to encourage other agencies of government who fail to make their case in judicial proceedings in court, to resort to legislative engineering to achieve what they failed to obtain in court,” he said.
Omotowa restated NLNG’s commitment to the development of the Niger-Delta and willingness to partner with government agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to develop the region.
He said this was why NLNG is easily one of the biggest promoters of Corporate Social Responsibility in the area, supporting education, infrastructure development, and entrepreneurship.
“As evidence of our commitment to the development of the Niger Delta, NLNG has spent $177 million in infrastructure, education and other areas in the region. So it is not an issue of reluctance to support Niger Delta, but one of ensuring we work within the confines of the law and honour agreements and promises to maintain the valued reputation of our country in international business,” he said.
He stated that NLNG needs to be in the position to continue to support the region through being a successful Nigerian company, bringing value to the Delta and the nation in general, but that this would only be possible if the promises made to investors are not broken by amending the NLNG Act, which would certainly portray the country as one that does not honour agreements.
He emphasised that keeping agreements entered into with investors was crucial to retaining and attracting foreign investment into NLNG, as well as other sectors of the economy in line with the drive of the current administration.
“The intervention of NLNG, more than any other single factor, has led to the progressive decline in Nigeria’s gas flaring profile over the years, from well over 65 percent in the 1990s, to less than 20 percent today.
Therefore, aside from the fact that the company is earning revenue for the Federal Government and its other shareholders, it is cleaning up the Niger Delta environment in the process.
It goes without saying that the NLNG Act has been pivotal to the commencement of the project in the first place, and for the huge success the company has represented for Nigeria, with the country reaping over $33billion from its initial investment of $2.5billion.
The Act enabled the company to grow from its original 2-Trains to 6-Trains, creating an asset base of US$19 billion,49 percent of which the Federal Government owns,” he said
NLNG is owned by four shareholders, namely, the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC (49 percent), Shell Gas BV, SGBV, (25.6percent), Total LNG Nigeria Limited (15percent), and Eni International (N.A,) N. V. S. a. r. l (10.4percent).
TUC seeks probe of alleged diversion of bailout funds
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has called on the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to intensify their investigations into how state governments utilised the bailout funds they received to offset workers’ outstanding salaries and allowances and the pensions of retirees.
The Congress said it is worried by the unbridled greed and quest for materialism demonstrated by some governors and politicians, especially at this time when the country is experiencing major economic crunch and workers are being owed their entitlements.
TUC said it is unimpressed by the porous explanations in the national dailies by some governors and their commissioners for information on how the monies were spent. “As a labour centre, we get first-hand information from our members in all the states of the federation. We therefore know that some state governments are being economical with the truth when they make statements purporting to have settled all their indebtedness to their workers. Even where a particular state government pays some of the outstanding entitlements, does that automatically translate to a liquidation of the entire debt? Indeed, officers of the ICPC and EFCC should beware of this mischievous posturing in relevant bank transfer documents presented by the state governments,” it stated.
The Congress said it is simply inexcusable for any governor to neglect payment of workers and divert the funds, stressing that weighing such actions against the backdrop of the recent happenings in the Senate evokes serious concern about the integrity of our current crop of politicians.
It added that both the ICPC and EFCC were on track and must not allow themselves to be cowed by any individual or group in their fight against corruption, saying, “we know that corrupt politicians are wont to employ all antics to oppose the work of both commissions. Corruption fights back but all stolen wealth must be recovered. And any state that fails to make prompt payment of salaries and pensions will definitely face the wrath of Nigerian workers.”