Recent statements credited to Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, that the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, embezzled the sum of N160billion from the N162billion it generated in a year, yesterday attracted the attention of maritime stakeholders.
In their separate reactions, the representatives of workers’ unions and top officials of NPA and companies in the industry, described the governor’s claims as blatant lies designed to embarrass the NPA and mislead the Nigerian public.
Oshiomhole had while addressing labour leaders at the National Delegates’ Conference of the National Union of Road Transport Workers in Abuja, alleged that the management of NPA generated the sum of N162billion but remitted only N2bilion to the Federation Account. He claimed that the figures he quoted were from an official report.
But a competent source within the NPA (who opted for anonymity) described the allegation as “a blatant lie, unfounded and strange,” stressing that the amount remitted was what was due to the Federal Government after deduction of lawful expenditures as provided for by law.
He accused the governor of seeking cheap publicity as his statement could be seen as “another deliberate attempt to rubbish the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan despite all that it did to transform the maritime sector of the economy.”
The NPA was established by the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, Cap N126 LFN, 2004. It has power to construct, equip, operate and provide seaport services to the general public.
Essentially, the Authority is to be the commercial arm of the government which has to operate almost like any other business and make profit before remitting its operating surplus to the government, being the owner. This is net of all cost of undertaking operations (including development/maintenance of facilities/purchase of equipment) and administrative expenses.
According to our source, “In pursuance of the above, the Authority was given financial autonomy under section 13-14 of the Ports Act to apply its revenue towards carrying out the operations, development of ports, purchasing of equipment before remitting the surplus to government. Section 14 (1) of the Ports Act allows the Authority to maintain a general reserve fund into which it sets aside appropriate amounts for replacement, contingencies and other purposes. The monies are to be applied for purposes of the Authority with the approval of the Minster as provided under section 14(2). However, with the coming into force of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the appropriations in respect of the Authority are approved by the National Assembly by virtue of section 81 of the Constitution.
“Section 15 allows the Authority to apply its surplus revenues for its own purposes as it may determine. With the coming into effect of the 1999 Constitution, the surplus revenues of the Authority were made subject to the consolidated revenue fund established under section 81(1) of the constitution. This supersedes section 15 of the Ports Act in order to bring it in line with the Constitution.
“It should be noted that what is remitted is the revenue surpluses after meeting all operational, maintenance, development and administrative cost as appropriated by the National Assembly under section 81 of the Constitution in each year. The Authority therefore deals with the revenues only as appropriated.
“It should be pointed out here that Section 162(10) specifically states that revenues to be remitted must be as authorised by law.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority prepares annual reports not later than six months after the end of each year and submits to the Minister (see section 21(1) and (2) of Ports Act). It is only then that revenue surpluses are determined for remittance under the Fiscal Responsibility Act when all cost as appropriated for it by the National Assembly must have been settled,” the NPA official said.
Another source said because of the peculiarity of the industry, the requirement to pay all revenues directly to the Federation Account is not practicable as at the point of collection from third parties, the monies are not yet revenues of the Authority until the service and all associated costs are covered.
“As a global tradition, the port industry must conform to outlined safety and operating standards. Hence the need to ensure that all operating expenses are undertaken before surpluses are determined and remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This cannot be overemphasised,” he stated.
The retention of revenue as provided for by the law has enabled the Authority to successfully execute its mandate as enunciated in the Federal Government port reform. This has resulted in the growth of the general cargo handling capacity in the nation’s sea ports.
In addition to the general improvement of cargo, the Authority embarked on massive capital intensive projects in the areas of improved navigational safety, port infrastructures and information technology. The amount spent on these projects to get the system going, the source said is colossal and deserves timely interventions as desired by the financial autonomy accorded to the Authority in the existing law.
Also commenting, a union leader privy to the records of NPA, described the allegation of embezzlement by Oshiomhole as mischievous. The unionist admitted that the Authority remitted the sum of N2billion to the Federation Account, stressing that remittance is done after deduction of expenditures, adding that NPA’s Finance Department was working out the figures and would be made public very soon so as to clear the air on the matter.
He said the NPA had embarked on major projects including roads repair and provision of infrastructure across ports, as well as other necessary engineering and marine works to ensure the efficiency of service delivery and meeting the expectation of stakeholders and numerous ports users.

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