The Nigerian Content Vanguard (NCV), has urged President Muhammed Buhari and the various government agencies in the oil and gas sector to probe the indigenous ownership claim of the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics (LADOL) to put the raging controversy over the ownership of the company to rest.
In a statement issued from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, the Convener of the group, Mr. Timothy Johnson argued that with the allegation over the ownership of the company, it has become imperative for President Buhari to deploy the anti-corruption agencies to dig into the issue and ascertain the truth.
The group expressed worry over an allegation that two foreign-registered companies allegedly own 84 per cent stake in LADOL, and insisted that the federal government should ascertain the veracity of this claim.
“It is not against any Nigerian law for LADOL or any company to operate in Nigeria as a foreign company because President Muhammadu Buhari has always clamoured for foreign investments to create employment opportunities and boost Nigeria’s economy. But it is an abuse of the Nigerian local content law for a foreign company to lay claim to indigenous ownership just to take advantage of the huge opportunities meant for local entities in the oil and gas industry.
“The Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), stipulates clearly that when two foreign companies establish a company in Nigeria, the new entity is a foreign company
“Is it true that Sable Offshore Investment Limited, registered in British Virgin Island, and Alsba Ventures, also registered in the British Virgin Island own 84 per cent stake in LADOL?” the group queried.
“Nigeria has faced the challenges of Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), due to the scam in contract awards, as well as the opaque nature of the transactions in the country’s oil and gas business. According to the 14 Global Financial Integrity Report, Nigeria lost an estimated $157.5 billion to illicit financial flows between 2003 and 2012.
“It is a common knowledge that tax avoidance is a major form of illicit financial flow. Tax Justice Network and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have estimated that over $200 billion per year is being lost by developing countries when multinational enterprises do not pay taxes in the countries where they make the profit.
“Some companies operating in Nigeria have claimed Nigerian ownership to enjoy all the benefits that accrue to indigenous companies under the Nigerian Local Content Law.
“But when it is time to pay tax, they ascribe ownership of their companies to other entities registered in tax havens to avoid payment of tax.
“British Virgin Islands where Sable Offshore Investment Limited, and Alsba Ventures are registered, is the safe haven for tax dodgers. Can companies supposedly owned by Nigerians, but allegedly registered offshore like in the British Virgin Islands, qualified for Nigerian contents benefits?” the group queried.
The group urged President Buhari to direct the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the anti-corruption agencies to ascertain if Sable Offshore Investment Limited, and Alsba Ventures are registered in tax havens and if the two companies actually own 84 per cent stake in LADOL.
This investigation has become necessary to clear the air over these allegations. LADOL has always been in the news for the wrong reasons and this has created negative image for Nigeria.
It will be recalled that only recently, an operative of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mr. Innocent Oshemi, guarding the LADOL export free zone had shot and killed his colleague and severely injured a Korean. Two days later, the Korean died at a private hospital in Ikoyi.
The incident threatened foreign investments in LADOL as investors felt that an environment where an NSCDC could go on rampage is not a good destination for investments.
Also very recently, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which is LADOL’s landlord, accused it of shortchanging the federal government to the tune of N16 billion and terminated the land lease agreement.
LADOL has however claimed in a statement that the presidency has restored the lease but Nigerians will also like to know if it has paid NPA the N16 billion. There is also the need for an investigation into the issue to clear Nigeria’s image which is being dragged in the mud,” the group explained.