Operators at the Ladol Free Zone have lamented the exorbitant cost of land per square meter, and high cost of boat services in the zone, a development that has scared potential investors willing to take advantage of the strategic location of the zone to bring in Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).

They said the cost of land per square meter and the cost of boat services within LADOL are the highest compared to what investors pay in the other zones. According to them, the zone operator demands $15 free zone entry and exit fee per person per day; and annual passenger jetty service fee of $6,000,000 even when the value of the jetty itself is less than $1 million.

Each investor operating at the free zone is also required to pay $160,000 annual fee to station four armed guards in the free zone while the zone operator spends less than $10,000 on these guards, operators observe.

Maritime operators argued that unlike other free zones in the country, LADOL base is under lease to a private zone operator, which compels potential investors to negotiate with the zone operator instead of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

This development has led to investors paying exorbitant charges to the zone operator, compared to the “pittance” the zone operator paid to the NPA for the lease. The operators called on the Nigerian maritime authority to look into the high charges, it said has led to gross under-utilisation of the large expanse of land, despite its attractive, strategic location.

Some of the operators pointed out that the high charges imposed on oil and gas industry stakeholders at the Lagos free zone are passed on to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the free zone operator and subsequently paid by the federal government.

Commenting on the development, a maritime expert, Mr. Kingsley Omose, said the federal government to reduce the cost of producing crude oil, it must check the high charges imposed on the operators doing jobs at the free zones.

“If the federal government and the NNPC want to slash production cost for a barrel of crude oil, they should look at the operations and charges of the likes of Intels and LADOL who are tenants of NPA but whose exorbitant charges are paid by federal government through NNPC’s majority stakes in the joint venture oil operations of the international oil companies (IOCs).

For the Production Sharing contracts the reason why federal government’s take from offshore oil production is little or nonexistent is due to the high charges, which Intel’s and LADOL incorporated and which must be deducted by IOCs before sharing the balance oil with the federal government”.

“You can see that with the Samsung situation – where what they were charged by NPA is pittance compared to what they’re paying LADOL. That is the story of Nigeria, where public officials constantly put the interest of others and themselves before the Nigerian state”.

By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

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