By Uche Usim

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Nigerians face a fresh round of fuel scarcity as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is restraining berthing of ships contracted by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over a contentious N6 billion debt.
A top NPA official told Saturday Sun that the NNPC’s debt would have towered above the said amount had it (NPA) not granted the national oil company about 30 per cent rebate.
Consequently, some vessels laden with petroleum products under an NNPC contract are ‘stranded’ on the high seas. Saturday Sun gathered that one of the affected vessels belongs to a shipping company owned by a former National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“The company owes the NPA a whopping $2 million. That money can help us achieve a lot. It’s not good to enjoy services and not pay for them”, he said.
He added that the NPA was also insisting on collecting its payments in dollars as against being paid in naira at any exchange rate which is not certain due to fluctuations in the foreign exchange market.
“Vessels owned by the PDP chieftain’s  company and other ships laden with premium motor spirit are presently seeking berthing space at the Capital Oil Jetty in Ibafon Lagos. But we need to get our money. We’re not a charity organisation”, the source added.
The NPA official said he was aware that its insistence on collecting the monies before the vessels discharge  may lead to fuel scarcity, but said it appears that is likely to spur the national oil giant to pay up.
The Hadiza Bala Usman-led NPA had repeatedly said it would not treat the issue of debts with kid gloves. Recent moves indicate the new management team has commenced serious debt recovery drive aimed at addressing chains of indebtedness spanning between one to 10 years.
On Thursday, the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman told some terminal operators in Calabar that the authority will ensure maximum collection of all fees due to the government while urging them to stick to the terms of agreements entered with government.
Terminal operators who paid fees to NPA in naira in June 2016, have had their money returned, as the authority insisted that the payments be made in United States dollars as specified.

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