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Nigerian Ports Authority Accuses 3 Drilling Firms Of Evading Charges

BRT00103  Lagos

…firms sue NPA

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has accused three drilling firms- Sedco Forex, Noble Drilling and Pacific International Drilling- of evading payment of charges to the Federal Government for drilling in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The firms had sued NPA at the Federal High Court, Lagos, challenging imposition of the charges on them.

They claimed that four oil companies – Shell, Mobil, Chevron and Total – had engaged their services to prospect for oil within the EEZ.

The plaintiffs argued that since the Minister of Transport did not declare the EEZ as a compulsory pilotage districts, they were not obliged to pay any dues.

However, NPA told the court that the plaintiffs took their rigs directly to the EEZ without the necessary permit.

It said such rigs are usually brought in from abroad, but before they are moved to the EEZ, the drilling companies ought to obtain temporary import permits to bring in the rigs as cargos.

NPA said this was to prevent the payment of import duties by the drilling companies. But the plaintiffs never sought or obtained such permits, NPA said.

The defendant also argued that under the provisions of the Customs Act, the rigs should be discharged at regular ports before they are taken to the offshore drilling sites in the EEZ.

NPA said an exception is when the drilling companies obtain waivers to take the rigs directly to the offshore sites, which the plaintiffs allegedly did not obtain.

It said the drilling companies must, therefore, pay the dues as stipulated under the Compulsory Pilotage Order of 1996, which declares the EEZ as compulsory pilotage districts.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mr C. E. Abu on Wednesday said they intended to substitute their witness who was earlier listed to testify at the trial.

He said: “We have filed a motion seeking leave of the court to substitute our witness.”

NPA’s lawyer, Mr Ame Ogie, said he was not opposed to the application. He asked for a date for trial.

Justice James Tsoho granted the plaintiffs’ prayers and adjourned till June 31 for trial.




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