Port Harcourt — Controversy is trailing the decision by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) to document all vessels and boats operating in Rivers State.
The JTF, through its operation code-named "Operation Pulo Shield" announced that the security documentation and registration of the vessels barges and boats, which started on Tuesday, was to check oil theft. But maritime workers are not happy with the amount of money fixed as registration fee, Daily Trust gathered.
Daily Trust further gathered that vessel and boat owners are expected to pay N25,000, while motorized boat owners are to pay N10,000 and small boat owners are to pay N5,000 to obtain registration forms at the 2 Amphibious Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt.
"The Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield has further been mandated to register vessels, barges, boats as a measure towards addressing the increase in the activities of oil thieves in the Niger Delta region," the JTF acting spokesman, Captain Sunny Samuel said.
But president of the Seamen and Water Transport Workers Association, Horsfall Topman, told newsmen that the money allegedly being demanded as registration fees amounts to double taxation as members of the union pay annual registration fee to the Federal Government.
"We are not opposed to that, what we are asking is that, is the revenue going to the Federal Government? Because I know that some of these vessel owners have paid one thing or the other to the Federal Government by way of registration. We either pay to the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIMASA or to NPA. So, is this double taxation backed by the Federal Government? Or tax made by the National Assembly through the JTF? We don't know, and our members will ask us all these questions", he said.
Also speaking, leader of the Maritime Workers and Boat Operators union in the state, Francis Bodo said the JTF did not consult them before taking the decision.
"The union is not aware, I have just called my head office and they said they know nothing about that. If the JTF says it wants to stop illegal oil bunkering by registering all vessels and boats in Rivers State, that is fine, but they don't have to ask for money," he said.