The management of Intels Nigeria Limited (INL) has said that contrary to allegations, that the company does not owe the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) and its operations do not violate the OGFZA Act.
INL in a statement described the allegations as “false and malicious,” adding that it had meetings with OGFZA regarding various demand notices issued by the authority as well as other measures taken by OGFZA, which is affecting INL’s status and operations in the Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone.
“OGFZA has refused to release INL licence for 2017 on the ground that it had to pay all charges and fees demanded by the agency notwithstanding that it has paid in full the renewal fee for the licence.
According to Intels, other fees in question relate to new free zone tariffs on land charges imposed by the Free Zone Order gazetted in 2015, but being implemented from 2017. “We raised some issues concerning the land charges with the result that the claim by the OGFZA on INL for those charges is presently being disputed.”
The company said it is not liable to pay the demanded lease/sublease charge being introduced by OGFZA, and insisted that since the charge is in dispute, the charges are not due, within the meaning of Regulation 35(1)(b).
Intel insisted that the premises it occupies in the ports were granted by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which is the statutory owner of the land on which the company’s operation.
“OGFZA has no legal authority to administer land vested in the NPA and cannot impose levy on NPA land, and not having any interest over the land, it cannot register third party interests or transactions over the land.
“In tacit recognition of NPA’s overriding right over the land, please note that Regulation 49 (1& 2) of the Oil & Gas Free Zone Regulations 2003 states thus:
(1) Without prejudice to the provisions of the Land Use Act, any land under the control or management of the Nigerian Ports Authority shall be acquired, leased or transferred to an investor by the NPA.
(2) An investor shall take lease from the NPA, in respect of any land situate in the Free Zone, but within the ports area and owned by the NPA, on the terms and conditions prescribed by the authority.
“Therefore, the terms and conditions of grant of every proprietary interest over NPA land situate in the Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone, is entirely the legal responsibility of NPA.
“To further underscore the fact that the administrative authority of OGFZA does not cover land owned by NPA, please note that subsection 3 of Regulation 49 states: An investor shall take lease from the OGFZA, in respect of any land outside the control of the NPA but situate within the Free Zone.
“Therefore, it is clear in law that the control of Intels land as “NPA’s tenant” within the ports is absolutely the preserve of NPA. Intels being a concessionaire is not liable to the land registration charge imposed by OGFZA,” INL stated.
According to the company, OGFZA’s position on the alleged debt is misconceived and ill-advised.
INL said OGFZA is under obligation to renew its free zone license because it has paid the prescribed free zone license fees for the 2017 operating license after filing the 2016 annual return along with other formalities.