By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petition has summoned the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Wabote over the award of over N30.32 billion contracts to a Dubai based company in breach of the Local Content Act.
In a petitions obtained by our correspondent, Topaz had through its activities in the country annually exported over $84, 240 million out of the country by executing contracts awarded by Total, Mobil and Chevron and which should have been executed by local firms without the two regulatory agencies ensuring compliance with the Local Content Act.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Uzoma Nkem Abonta who issued the summons, said the chief executives of the two agencies were invited to explain their failure to act to stop this huge capital flight from the company allegedly carried out by Topaz Marine Dubai which executed contracts awarded by three oil multinationals in flagrant disobedience of the Local Content Act.
Abonta explained during a hearing last week Tuesday has led to indigenous companies that have invested hugely in ship acquisition being denied the opportunity to bid for contracts while a foreign firm in conjunction with sister companies, all based in Dubai bided and won contracts from the multinational oil firms in breach of the Local Content Act.
Our correspondent reports that this revelation came to light based on a petition submitted to the House by the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) on the gross abuse of the Nigerian Content Act by Topaz Dubai and Team Offshore Nigeria Limited dated August 15, 2018.
CLO Chairman, South South Zone, Karl Chinedu Uchegbu had in the petition to the House alleged that Topaz Marine Dubai which came to Nigeria in 2012 exploited loopholes it discovered to circumvent the Local Content Act to do business in the offshore support services Segment of the oil and gas sector.
Uchegbe alleged that the Dubai firm shortchanged indigenous companies on account of their access to low interest foreign loans from its home nation where its majority shareholder, The Renaissance Group is quoted on the stock exchange.
He explained that “in order to evade complying with Section 3 (2) of the Nigerian Content Act, Topaz Dubai suspiciously incorporated Team Offshore Nigeria Limited, as a supposedly local entity with members of a law firm as proxy directors who have little or no holding in the company.
“They also proceeded to suspend the flags of over 13 vessels in their fleet, mostly Platform Support Vessels and anchor handlers.
“These vessels are illegally flying Nigerian flags while they are owned 100 per cent by Topaz Dubai and sister companies without a single percentage of ownership allocated to Nigerians.
“Topaz by virtue of this, is denying indigenous companies that have borrowed from banks at exorbitant interest rates to buy vessels for the jobs required to repay their loan facilities, thereby frustrating the intentions of the Local Content Act and engaging in exportation of capital out of Nigeria,” the petitioner stated.
Uchegbu added that the vessels belonging to Topaz Marine are engaged currently by oil multinationals such as Mobil, Total, and Agip with each making over $18, 000 daily on charter rates which is taking entirely out of the country to service foreign interests.
“With full engagement of the vessels at an average of $18, 000 per day Will give a total of $540, 000 per each vessel when multiplied by the 13 vessels gives a total of $7, 020, 000 per month and a cumulative sum of $84, 240, 000 per year.
“It’s on this premise that we wish to appeal that the contracts of Topaz, a few of which we have found to be with Mobil, Total and Chevron be immediately cancelled and awarded to Nigerians who have invested money in acquiring similar vessels to enable them repay their loans.”