June 18, 2013 / 4:17 PM / 4 years ago

Nigerian LNG says gone to court over tax dispute

LAGOS, June 18 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s Liquefied Natural Gas company (Nigeria LNG) said on Tuesday it had gone to court to seek “judicial clarity” over levies it believes are unlawful, a month after authorities blocked some of its ships from accessing the Bonny terminal.

Nigeria LNG said it was now complying with a government directive to pay freight levies to maritime security agency NIMASA, but that it had protested that they did not apply to it under the NLNG Act.

The row caused Nigeria LNG’s exports to be delayed from May 3 to May 5, when NIMASA blockaded its ships.

“Following this blockade incident ... the Federal Government (instructed) ... NLNG to pay the NIMASA levies. NLNG has thus commenced instalment payment, under protest ... but without prejudice to its right to seek judicial interpretation in the court of law,” spokesman Kudo Eresia-Eke said in a statement.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation owns 49 percent of Nigeria LNG with Shell holding 25.6 percent, Total 15 percent and Eni 10.4 percent.

Nigeria ships more than 250 cargoes of LNG a year, contributing around 7 percent of global supply and accounting for 4 percent of GDP in Africa’s second largest economy, according to NLNG, although it is sometimes disrupted by sabotage of Shell gas pipelines.

Buyers of Nigeria’s LNG include Spain’s Repsol, Italy’s Enel, Britain’s BG Group France’s GDF Suez and Portugal’s Galp.

“Nigeria LNG... still firmly believe in the rectitude of their earlier position that NLNG is duly protected by the provisions of the NLNG Act against the payment (of the levies),” the statement said.

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