—as SAN drags FG to court

By Funsho Olojo  |

The implementation of the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) has put most of the agencies of government in the maritime industry on edge just as a maritime lawyer, Mike Igbokwe, has dragged the Federal government to court over its implementation in the industry.

The policy, which was initiated by the Jonathan administration but enforced by the Muhammadu Buhari government, was meant to centralize government revenue generation in order to plug leakages.

However, the policy which took effect in August has started taking a heavy toll on the operations of maritime agencies.

Nigerian-Maritime-Administration-and-Safety-Agency-NIMASAInvestigations revealed that the operations and financial obligations of such agencies as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC),  National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) have greatly been hampered.

A top source in NPA lamented that the policy is already having a negative toll on the authority’s operation as it has been unable to meet some of its core responsibilities.

He observed that the agency, as a service organization, should have been exempted from TSA, the same way NNPC and a few others were reportedly exempted.

“We are a service agency. NPA has a lot of responsibility including daily maintenance and cleaning of the port, ensuring port hygiene, servicing vessels and other craft, providing marine services, port lighting and meeting our responsibilities to concessionaires. We are a self-funding commercial entity and should not have been mandated to operate the TSA.

“If government does not exempt us as soon as possible, the ports may be grounded and the economy will suffer for it,” the source declared.

NPA logo copy_1The NPA staff argued that the agency had been excused from complying with the policy in the past

It was gathered that the agency now finds it difficult to meet its financial obligations to staff and contractors.

The agency has only just paid the September salary almost two weeks into the following months.

Similarly, the agency managed to meet its financial obligations to tally clerks who are on its pay roll, after several months of staff- off with the Maritime Workers of Nigeria who has on two occasions called its members out on strike over the unpaid dues meant for them.

It took the workers another round of threats to go on strike before the agency hurriedly paid part of the money owed the junior staff.

“This has never happened before. It is unfortunate that this directive is putting the organization in a very difficult situation,” a top management staff lamented.

Other maritime agencies like the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) are not spared the agony of the implementation of TSA.

A source at the Shippers’ council disclosed that the TSA directive is already taking its toll on the organization.

“We are not a revenue- generating agency but already this order has virtually crippled our operational ability to execute the mandate given to us by the same Federal Government,” he said.

NimasaHowever, a maritime lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Igbokwe has dragged the Federal Government to court challenging the inclusion of the maritime agencies in the TSA implementation.

In a suit filed at a Federal High Court, Lagos on behalf of an indigenous shipping company, Elshcon Nigeria Limited, Igbokwe observed that the directive to maritime agencies to pay their revenues into the TSA and Consolidated Revenue Fund will impair their operations and adversely affect the discharge of their duties.

Igbokwe said the plaintiff would seek an order restraining the Federal government from implementing the directives pending the determination of the case, which has been assigned to Justice Ibrahim Buba.