Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime, as well as the oil and gas sector, have called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bank of Industry (BoI), and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to crosscheck the utilisation of the funds they provided to support the Lagos Deep Offshore Operator.
The stakeholders argued that the investments on ground at the zone could be far less than the amount of funds the operator claimed to have received from these banks and agencies.
They argued that for the 15 years the firm has operated the free trade zone, the area has remained a largely undeveloped swamp without facilities to attract investors.
Reacting to the purported renewal of the lease by the federal government, Nigerian Maritime Support (NMS), an upcoming association of maritime and oil industry pressure group, urged the CBN, NCDMB, and BoI to probe how their funds were utilised.
In a statement issued at the weekend, Convener of the group, Comrade Nurudeen Ismaila Bello and Interim Organising Secretary, Mr. Segun Andrew, noted that apart from the fabrication and integration yard built by foreign investors during the construction of the Egina Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO), no other massive structure sits at the zone.
“The operator claimed that it is highly indebted to the banks and its shareholders because of the massive investments it has made but no massive structure sits in the free zone to justify such claims,” the group said.
“For instance, while agitating for the renewal of the lease, the operator reportedly told the federal government that its shareholders,which include some agencies of the federal government like the Bank of Industry (BoI), have invested $25 million into the export free zone between 2010 and 2013.
“The firm also claimed that its shareholders have massive investments in extensive infrastructure, utilities, facilities and equipment. It also disclosed that it is building a 50 megawatt-capacity power plant in the zone and is also enjoying a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s N6.09 billion loan. It also revealed that the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) has supported it with bank guarantees of $25 million and that it has also invested millions of dollars into the development and sand filling of the land on which the fabrication yard for the Egina FPSO was built.
“The also asserted that it invested additional $40.5 million into the construction of the yard itself,” the group explained.
“While we applaud the CBN, BoI, NCDMB and others for offering these claimed supports to the firm, we wish to note that we don’t have the mechanisms to ascertain the veracity of these claims. We don’t have the mechanisms to verify if these banks and agencies actually supported the operator as claimed.
“But our team of experts who visited the free trade zones across the country disclosed that no serious infrastructure that could be linked directly to the operator is at the zone to justify the massive supports. So, where did it invest the funds,” the group queried.
According to the group, the only massive investment at the zone is the fabrication yard built by foreign investors.
The group insisted that the only way to develop the free trade zone is to break the existing monopoly, adding that the zone is the only one in Nigeria managed by a single company.
But one of the spokespersons of the operator dismissed the allegations as baseless and unfounded.