The management of BUA Group, on Tuesday, decried a situation where the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) is attempting to stand truth on its head by peddling inaccurate information about the deliberate, quick and illegal decommissioning of BUA Terminal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in total disregard for due process.
Reacting to statements credited to Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director of the NPA, wherein she said the decision to decommission the facility was taken for health and safety reasons and following the failure of the terminal operators to reconstruct the berths, BUA noted that it was rather the NPA that failed to carry out any of its own obligations under the Lease Agreement.
Such obligations, it explained, are necessary for any meaningful reconstruction to take place, stressing that the NPA has, so far, not responded to several requests by BUA seeking approval to perform remedial action on the berth.
Notwithstanding, BUA said it went ahead to contracted a renowned construction company to effect the needed repairs at the terminal, following which it paid 4.7m Euros, lamented, however, that the NPA did not respond to such letters seeking approval for work to begin. This, it lamented further, made any construction work impossible, adding that the failure of the NPA to provide security at the terminal as required in the lease agreement, exposed it to the nefarious activities of hoodlums and vandals, who over time cut the pipes and steel beams of the berths thereby affecting their stability and consequently making remedial works imperative.
According to BUA, while the NPA boss admitted issuing a Notice of Termination, she “interestingly omitted to acknowledge that (the) NPA failed to abide by the provisions of the Lease Agreement, especially the dispute resolution provisions.”
The agreement, it continued, “provides that certain steps must be taken where there is a dispute which if cannot be resolved amicably, should be referred to arbitration.
“As a responsible corporate citizen, which appreciates the coercive powers of the NPA as an agency of government, BUA approached the Federal High Court for the protection of its rights and investments, (and) the court granted an injunction restraining the NPA from giving effect to the Notice of Termination and also ordered parties to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the agreement. In essence, NPA was enjoined to await the outcome of the arbitration proceedings.
The statement further noted that “rather than wait for the outcome of the arbitration proceedings, which NPA itself had initiated, NPA again issued a letter decommissioning the terminals, which is tantamount to an effective termination of the Agreement, ostensibly relying on a letter written by us requesting the approval of NPA (as required under the Agreement), to carry out remedial works.
“We restate that there is no provision under the Agreement enabling NPA to decommission the terminals neither is there anything in our letter to the NPA that to suggest that the remedial works required to be carried out on the berths affected requires a closure of the entire Terminal.
“We note the statement by the MD of NPA alleging that BUA Ports and Terminals failed to reconstruct the berths as a purported reason for the said termination. It is however interesting to note that the MD of NPA failed to state that NPA actually failed to carry out any of its own obligations under the Agreement to date, which obligations are necessary and required for a concomitant obligation by for any meaningful reconstruction. For instance, the NPA has the specific obligation to dredge the ports, repair, renew, rebuild the quay walls and provide security for the terminals. It did not do any of these.
“It was the failure of the NPA to provide the required security that led to the nefarious activities of hoodlums and vandals who over a period of time cut the pipes and steel beams of the berths thereby affecting their stability and consequently making remedial works imperative.”
While insisting that disputes are not resolved on pages of newspapers or social media, BUA urged the current NPA management to “diligently prosecute its claims in the arbitration,” if indeed it “has confidence in the merits of its case… as a law-abiding agency of government and creation of statute.”