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‘Terminal decommissioning puts $400 million investment, jobs at risk’

Although the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), said it decommissioned the BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, operator of Terminal B, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for security reasons, BUA described the action as contradictory to the ease of doing business agenda while putting about $400 million worth investment at risk.

With delays in kicking off its production plant, operators of the terminal said raw materials needed for production remained at sea while over 1,000 direct job losses will be recorded if the bickering lingers.

The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, had the agency, as a responsible government organisation, took the step to save the lives and limbs of those working at the terminal.

However, the General Manager, BUA Ports & Terminals, Mohammed Ibrahim, disagreed, insisting that NPA was abdicating its responsibility.

Ibrahim emphasised the need to revisit the terms of concessioning so that parties can address issues as well as their responsibilities.

“As things are, average monthly revenue of $.5million is being lost, while many dock workers have since been left idle. Similarly, tank farms associated with the terminal are equally suffering as they have to re-route their products through other terminals.

“Under the agreement between the parties, NPA has an obligation, among others, to dredge the port and repair the quay apron of the Terminal, which responsibility it has failed to perform till date.

“The background to the issues between the NPA and BUA Ports and Terminals Limited has its root in the Lease Agreement between the Nigerian Port Authority, the Bureau of Public Enterprises on one hand, both representing the Federal Government of Nigeria, and BUA Ports and Terminal Limited on the other hand. The Lease Agreement provides for mutual rights and obligations, and makes provision for dispute resolution mechanism, which explicitly states that dispute shall be resolved by arbitration.

“It should be stated that the repairs required was as a result of the nefarious activities of hoodlums and vandals who had over a period of time cut the pipes and steel beam of the berths thereby affecting their stability, among others. The activities of these hoodlums and vandals were at various times reported to the NPA, which has the responsibility and obligation under the Agreement to provide security for the Ports. The NPA did nothing. Indeed BUA in its determined effort to tackle these issues caused some arrests to be made and some of the suspects prosecuted, but NPA as owners of the Ports showed little or no interest in the prosecution and the case was lost. Obviously, if the NPA had been alive to its responsibilities and provided the required security, the activities of the vandals would have been prevented.

“It is important to stress that the repair and reconstruction required for the part of the Jetty in question does not require a decommissioning or closure of the entire Terminal. The carrying out of the remedial works if approved by the management of NPA would have remedied the defects stated in our letter to NPA and averted any risk of loss of property and lives. It is apparent that NPA is using the said letter by BUA Ports and Terminals as a subterfuge for an effective termination and closure of the Terminal in violation of the order of the court restraining NPA from carrying into effect the purported Notice of Termination.

“It is also germane to point out that under the Lease Agreement, NPA has an obligation, among others, to dredge the port and repair the quay walls and apron of the Terminal which responsibility it has failed to perform till date. The dredging of the port is a sine qua non condition for the effective reconstruction and rehabilitation of the jetty given the age of the port (over 100 years old),” Ibrahim added.

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